son of hope berkowitz

VOLUME FEBRUARY 2003a Space Shuttle, Joe T., Wives and Children, Lockdown,Cory, US Armed Forces

VOLUME JANUARY 2003a Mack, Wendell Judd, Suicide
VOLUME FEBRUARY 2003aSpace Shuttle, Joe T., Wives and Children,Lockdown, Cory,US Armed Forces
VOLUME MARCH 2003aMy Mother, Cop Killer
VOLUME APRIL 2003aHussein, Iraq, War
VOLUME MAY 2003a The Army Days
VOLUME JUNE 2003a50th Birthday, Nothing to Prove
VOLUME JULY 2003Easy Yoke, Witchcraft, I Remember
VOLUME AUGUST 2003 A Good Report, A Devout Jew, Closer to the Lord
VOLUME SEPTEMBER 2003Mrs. Moskowitz
VOLUME OCTOBER 2003 Pearl of Great Price, TV Programs, Not Forgotten, Suicide Attempt, Long Distance
VOL. Nov. 2003 Charlie's Dead, Iraq War
VOLUME DECEMBER 2003 Mental Illness, Charlie's Dead
VOLUME JANUARY 2004No Complaints, Full Altar, Code Yellow
VOLUME FEBRUARY 2004Shot Dead, Violence, Gay Marriage
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Lockdown, Cory 

February 1, 2003


I was listening to the news on my radio this morning when the first reports began to come in concerning a possible crash of the Columbia spacecraft. Now, hours later, these reports have been confirmed.

I said several prayers for the families of those astronauts, one of who was from Israel.

Earlier this morning I had been reading the New Testament letter of First Peter. One particular Scripture I had been focusing on was 1 Peter 1:24. "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away."

How true! All of mankind's accomplishments, no matter how humanly good and noble, will eventually come to nothing.

Looking at things with the perspective of eternity in mind, only what the Lord does will last.

I believe that in time much of man's space travels will amount to nothing of eternal value. For we as Christians, once we receive our new bodies in heaven, will probably be able to travel to the furthest galaxies.

And when God makes His new heavens and a new earth, which the holy Bible says He will do, I am certain that we ourselves will be able to transcend all the limitations of space and time that exist today.

It is good that man seeks to learn about the universe. It's nice that people try to accomplish great feats and seek to make scientific progress for society. But ultimately even these fine things will be meaningless in eternity when all human time comes to an end and each person goes to his or her eternal destiny.

Seven brilliant and heroic people lost their lives today. I will continue to pray for their families.

David Berkowitz


February 2, 2003


On January 30 and 31 I wrote about "Joe T." and his struggles. Then yesterday the Columbia Space Shutle exploded in a tragic accident, and I felt led to write about it. Today, however, I want to get back to Joe.

When I left Joe on Thursday afternoon, he was in the hands of one of the facility's mental health professionals. At the time he was depressed and was doing things to indicate that he was going to hurt himself. He was crying and giving his things away to some of his inmate friends.

I spent much of Thursday afternoon talking with Joe. So did the corrections officers and, finally, someone from the Mental Health Unit.

Later it was determined to leave Joe in his cell as opposed to the more extreme measure of committing him into the prison's "satellite Unit".

The Office of Mental Health has a "Satellite Unit", also known as an Observation Unit" ( the latter term is not officially used anymore). Calling a cell in the Observation Unit a "satellite cell" is euphemistically more benign sounding than the word "observation".

In reality it is the same thing. Every maximum security prison in New ork State, I believe, has an Observation/Satellite Unit on its grounds for those inmates who need to be kept on a 24 hour suicide watch.

Years ago it was called a "padded cell". It still exists, though only the name has changed. Nowadays the inmates and staff call it a "strip cell".

However, the good news is that, earlier on Friday when I saw Joe, he was still in his regular cell. He was smiling and joking around, and he seemed to be doing much better. His friends had already given him back the property he tried to give away.

David Berkowitz

February 9, 2003


It is now evening. This is a good time, as I sit in my prison cell, to quietly reflect after having had a full and busy day of chapel services.

I find it interesting that some of the most frequently requested prayers that my fellow Christian prisoners bring before the altar in this place, is that their spouse and/or children would get saved. And for those who have professed faith in Christ, that they would get "on fire" for Jesus.

I find it so ironic that here are men who are in prison, yet God reaches down and touches their hearts so much, that they fall in love with Him. they serve the Lord with such fervor. Yet their wives or children who are outside of these walls basically remain indiffernt to their husband's or father's faith.

Today, for example, during this morning's altar call, men with wives and/or kids jammed the alther, may of them with faces awash in tears, pleading with the Lord to be merciful to their loved ones.

They pleaded for their spiritually indifferent wives and their wayward childrem. And for those men who have wives or children who actually profess to be Christians, that all lukewarmness would be removed from them.

These men weep because their wives seem so "worldly minded" and disinterested in knowing Christ, or in serving Him to the fullest.

Christian prisoners yearn for their families to get touched by God.

David Berkowitz

February 11, 2003


I had a restful day both physically and spiritually. Beginning shortly after this morning's breakfast, it was announced that our prison was going into total "Lockdown" in anticipation of a possible terrorist attack on the United States.

Several days ago the President issued a "Code Orange". This resulted in the prison's staff going into a heightened state of alert. And this morning, for reasons I do not know, this level of alertness has increased.

Thus all the inmates are now comfined to our cells, and we may be here until this code Orange is over with.

I do not know if any other prisons in New York have been closed. But I do know that all the civilian volunteers who usually come into this facility have been banned from coming onto the prison's grounds until further notice.

These volunteers come in at various times throughout the week to do educational tutoring. Or to teach Bible studies or to conduct other workshops and self-help programs.

Right now I feel like the apostle John who was left in isolation on the Island of Patmos. All of our chapel services and Bible studies have also been canceled due to this lockdown.

For me this is a time to fellowship more clolsely with the Lord and to pray more.

I am not worried about this lockdown. I've been through these before. The last one was in October of last year. See my journal entries for October 10 and 13, 2002

David Berkowitz

February 12, 2003


This is the second day of our lockdown. I awoke at about 6 o'clock this morning to find a Styrofoam food tray parked on the "feed-up" slot thats in the middle of my cell door. There was a cup's worth of dry corn flakes in the main compartment, and a small apple and several sugar packets in the smaller compartments. An 8 ounce Styrofoam cup of lukewarm milk sat beside the tray. My breakfast.

When a prisoner suddenly finds a styrofoam food tray placed in the food slot of his cell door, this is a sign that his door is not going to be opening.

Thus having to face the rest of the day in this confinement, I spent virutally all morning and afternoon reading and praying. I needed this rest anyhow.

I have also been listening to the local news station on the radio. And this was when I heard the report that my prison was under a lockdown, not only because of this state-wide "Code Orange" alert (as I mentioned in yesterdayt's journal entry), but also because a correction's officer found a thick law book in the law library which had what looked like a bullet hole in it.

On the news reports, which were coming on every hour, it was mentioned that the New York State Police's crime lab confired that the hole in the book was made by a bullet. And if there was a bullet hole, then there had to be some kind of gun to fire the bullet.

Back in October of last year, this facility was closed for a lockdown and search because three bullets were found inside the hollow tubing of a mop handle. A thorough search was made for more bullets, and even for a gun. But after three days the prison was reopened and things went back to normal, until now.

David Berkowitz

February 13, 2003


We all knew they were coming, as they had already begun to conduct their intense search for contraband the very first day that our lockdown began.

Around 9 o'clock this morning they marched into my cellblock in a long column of twos, looking like Vikings or soldiers ready for combat.

The New York State Department of Correctional Services Cell-Extraction Team ("CERT Unit") was here. their specialties, in addition to searching for aything prison inmates are not permitted to possess, are to quell riots and other disturbances, to end hostage situations, to disarm weapon carrying inmates, and to extract from a prison cell by any means possible, any inmate who refuses to leave his cell.

Every guard in this state-wide CERT Unit comes with a full compliment of protective gear: steel-toed stomper boots, hard helmet with a Plexiglass face shield, rip proof gloves that look like big bear claws for wrestling a knife or razor out of an inmate's hand, a stab proof vest which looks exatly like a bullet proof vest, canisters of Mace, a gas mask, handcuffs, and a long black baton.

The guards who belong to this specially trained unit are not known for being gentle or polite.

They even came wearing knee and elbow pads like football players use to protect their joints in case these guards have to scuffle with an unruly prisoner. For not all the prisoners are intimidated by the battle ready appearance of the CERT Unit, and they fight back.

And here they came, moving in Army style formation, a battalion of "Darth Vader" look-alikes, coming to let us know who was in charge. I had no doubt they were!

Then came the actual search of my cell.

The Cell-Extraction Team gathered by the dozens on the gound floor of my cellblock, which they used as a staging area. Then the guards grouped into teams of three. and when this was done, they fan out  in front of each individual cell.

Suddenly a three guard team appeared in front of my cell. My door, made of rows of steel bars, sprang open, and in came two of the gurds. The third officer stood blocking the narrow entryway, his baton raised into the air. This is standard procedure.

I was immediately ordered to undress. Being "strip searched", as it is referred to in jail house jargon, is a rite of passage for every prisoner.

I must have gone through this hundreds of times, not only during these kinds of special searches, but also at the end of every visit.

Off come the clothes. I have never gotten used to this. It's degrading but necessary. Inmates are known for being very clever when it comes to hiding things, and stories abound of all the strange things that have been found in ordinarily private places.

So as I took off each clothing item, each guard would take his turn to grab a piece of clothing and examine it. My pants pockets. The elastic lining of my undershorts. Even my socks were, one-at-a-time, held up in the direction of my ceiling's flourescent light to be carefully scrutinized. Then each sock was turned inside out, and the process was repeated.

Then as I stood undressed before , one of the guards scanned my body from top to bottom, front and back, with a hand-held metal detecting wand.

I was "clean". No contraband. And every prisoner gets the same treatment, no exceptions.

Nevertheless, I was relieved when the search of my cell was over. It was an unpleasant adventure.

Next, however, came the clean up. Right after the search, my cell looked like a home that was overturned by a hurricane with 150 MPH winds.

Half of my property was piled on top of my bunk. The rest was scattered and crumpled all across my floor. Everything was moved around.

So I spent most of the remainder of the day reorganizing, and trying to restore my things to their original places..

And all totaled, the CERT Unit spent several hours in my cellblock as they also had to check outside of the cells. They had to search the dayroom, examining everything.

Then after all this, thankfully, they moved on to begin this same process all over again in a neighboring cellblock. The entire prison has to be searched.

I had an odd feeling though, when the last of the Cell Extraction Team left. When I heard the loud slams of the electronically controlled sliding steel doors closing behind them as they walked out of the building to enter the prison's hallway, it felt as if I were invaded and violated by a foreign army.

They left behind a big mess. But at least everyone, including myself, now know that there are no weapons in anyone's possession to hurt somebody.

David Berkowitz

February 14, 2003


Sometime during the early morning hours a little before the sun came up, one of the prison's employees left another Styrofoam food tray in the slot of my cell door along with another cup of lukewarm milk. The lockdown and search for contraband isn't over yet.

This is the fourth day of confinement. I pretty much have my property back in order after yesterday's thashing. No damage was done to my things, but many other men lost various items. Not weapons, just odds and ends that the Cell Extraction Unit search teams determined on a case by case basis, what a prisoner could keep and what should be confiscated.

Unfortunately, too, it seems that a number of the inmates go a little stir crazy during a prolonged lockdown.

For those who do not like to read, or who miss not being able to watch their programs on the dayroom television, the "cell time" starts getting to them. They get restless. There's energy to burn yet no way to do it.

Some of the inmates have been standing by their cell doors yelling to their friends, trying to carry on conversations by distances of ten to one hundred feet, depending on how far away their friends are.

Generally prisons are noisy places with dozens of men talking at once. During a lockdown there's nothing for many of these men to do but talk.

And if one cannot find something worthwhile to do, like studying for his General Equivalency Diploma (GED), he is often left to piddle about in his little cell, walking in circles or cleaning the same small area again and again.

David Berkowitz

February 15, 2003


Our lockdown ended late yesterday afternoon. The Cell Extraction team have packed up their quipment and dispersed. Most of them had been mobilized from different prisons all across New York State.

All told, this was quite an ordeal. But it's over, and I think I held up well.

During those four days I spent much of my time reading, praying, typing letters, and even doing this journal. I was also able to rest.

This was a big change from my always busy work schedule and all the Bible study classes in the chapel.

I was able to finally use the phone for about ten minutes. Best of all, I was able to take a hot shower.

Now it's back to my regular schedule and routine.

David Berkowitz

February 21, 2003


I live in the general population section of the prison. However, Monday thru Friday I am assigned from 8:30 a.m. to 3: p.m. to the Intermediate Care Program where the "special needs" inmates live. I spend my work hours with them and try to help any man that I could.

For the most part, some of these guys manage very well, while others have very serious issues. But all of them have some form of coping difficulty (or difficulties), or at least they have been so labeled.

It could be that a man has very limited intellectual abililties (mental retardation) or some other emotional problem that causes him to have poor coping skills. And because of these factors he is more prone to "act out", express his anger and frustrations in inappropriate ways, or when under stress to regress into a deeper level of psychosis.

Most of these inmates take psychotropic medications to help them function and to cope woith the daily stresses of prison life.

And "Cory" (not his real name) is such a person. Normally he is so mellow. So today I was surprised when he approached me privately and told me that he was hallucinating.

Cory said that everything seemed to be closing in on him as well as some other things (which I cannot share) that led me to believe he was thinking of taking his life.

Several years ago Cory attempted suicide by taking an overdose of various pills he managed to squirrel away. He went into a coma for at least several weeks as he lay in the hospital recovering.

For the past week he seemed unusually quiet and subdued. I sensed that he was wresting with something. And now I see that my feelings were correct. He was fast becoming depressed and even psychotic.


February 22, 2003


Mental illness is like a demon who sneaks into its victim and insideously poisons the mind. Most people who become menally ill and psychotic do not even know what's happening, or that they're sick.

Cory was like this. As I mentioned in yesterday's journal entry, at one point in his life he was in such extreme emotional pain, that he methodically planned his death by secretly accumulating various medications until he had enough (or so he thought) to consume at one time and end it all.

Fortunately this did not happen. He ended up in a hospital and in a coma. But he survived. And over time Cory was able to realize that he has a mental illness which sometimes manifests itself even in spite of the medications he takes.

Thus for a man to recognize that he has a psychiatric problem is very good. Most people who have a mental illness probably remain in denial all their lives. So this time Cory may have saved his own life. For when he told me (yesterday) that he was beginning to hallucinate, he obviously felt comfortable enough to tell me about it.

That after he and I talked for about ten minutes, I gently asked Cory if he wanted me to tell someone about this. He told me not to tell any of the guards, but instead to find one of the Intermediate Care Program's trained staff.

I then went to the office of the counselor who's assigned to the program. I explained what Cory seemed to be going through and told him what Cory said.

This counselor immediately made a phone call and started the process to have Cory admitted into the Satellite Unit.


February 23, 2003


For the past several days I have been praying for Cory. It was on February 21 that he approached me and and told me that he thought he was becoming mentally ill, and that he was beginning to hallucinate.

I thank God that over time I have been able to gain Cory's trust. He knew that he could approach me at any time and share whatever was on his mind.

Now, a few days later, Cory is still in the prison's Satellite Unit. He is no longer in an isolation cell under 24 hour observation. Instead he is in the Satellite Unit's special dormitory area, where he's being watched with less intensity than if he stayed in that cell.

I miss Cory. He is one of the more stable men who live in the Intermediate Care Program's cellblock. He can function at a higher level than many of his peers. And He and I would often play basketball and other sports together.

Of course I have tried to share my faith in God with Cory. He went to the chapel; a few times, but this was years ago. He felt "paranoid" in such a meeting, he told me.

Nevertheless, on occasion he would read the monthly Prison Fellowship newslatters and some other popular Christian magazines.

I do not know how much longer Cory will be away from the I.C.P. cellblock. I hope he returns soon. In the meantime I will continue to pray for him.

David Berkowitz

February 28, 2003


One may be surprised to learn just how many of the prison inmates at my facility have sons or other relatives serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.

During the past several Sunday morning worship services, when my chaplain asked for prayer requests, those who have loved ones in the military made their request known.

Then as the weeks went by, a few of the men personally asked me to remember their sons. One man reminded me to pray for his eighteen year old who recently enlisted in the Marines. l Another stopped me in the hallway to remind me to pray for a son who is now in Kuwait.

I have several friends who are in the military. One man, Thomas, is presently in the Persian Gulf. Another, James, is presently stationed in California. Most of James' unit has already gone to the Middle East; he expects to be shipped out very soon.

A husband and wife who are both in the Marine Corps, are serving in the Asian Pacific. And two missionary friends of mine who are in Germany, and who primarily minister to U.S. Military personnel and their families, told me in a recent letter, that many soldiers from the large bases in Germany have already gone to the Persian Guilf.

These are troubled times. There is tension in the air. I know that many people who have loved ones serving our nation are worried and concerned.. But I know, to, that God answers the prayers of his childaren.

I keep thinking of Psalm 91 (one of my favorites). God is a shield and buckler to all who place their trust in Him

David Berkowitz 

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