October 1, 2003
On occasion I receive letters from friends and strangers asking
me about a recent television program they saw on the "Son of Sam" case.
Over the years there's been an array of programs that have
been aired, mostly on various cable networks.
Media outfits such as American Justice, A&E Biography,
Court TV, The Discovery, History, and Learning Channels, Lifetime, MSNBC, and others have put together their respective works
covering my life and crimes.
Let me say for the record that I have never watched a single
one of these programs. I have no interest in them, and I have no desire to view them, either.
From what I have been told, all these shows say basically the
same things, and they all seem to interview the same people. To me these programs seem redundant and outdated.
While I have nothing against any of these media companies,
I do wince in deep inner pain, and I do weep in sorrow whenever this "Son of Sam" stuff is broadcast. But there is nothing
I can do about it. I must endure the reminders of my shameful past.
Furthermore, I do not expect very many changes in any of these
programs other than what's already been presented and said.
These shows are aired as reruns and they never seem to go away.
Maybe they never will. but I have chosen to move on with my life. And by God's grace I am doing so.
October 5, 2003
A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
It was on this day thirty-six years ago that my mother died.
I miss her very much, and not a moment goes by that I do not think of her.
I regret my rebellion towards the authority of my parents.
I was a wild fourteen year old when my mother passed away. Sadly she experienced a lot of grief and she shed many tears over
my bad behavior.
I know I put my mom through a lot of pain when I got into trouble
both at school and in my neighborhood. But we had many good times, too. And I prefer to remember the latter.
I miss my mother's companionship and care, her cooking and
Neither has the passing of time dimmed the memories of my mom.
She was a beautiful woman both phyusically and inwardly.
It seems as if it was only a few years ago that I sat at our
little kitchen table on the sixth floor of our Bronx tenement, eating her chiffon cake and drinking a glass of ice cold milk.
She always waited for me to come home from school. Our apartment
was warm and an assortment of pleasant cooking odors would waft thoru our small kitchen filling the rooms with good smells.
Our home was also filled with plants, as this was one of my
mom's special hobbies. She loved plants and had them throughout our living room as well as on the fire escape during the summer.
Rightfully her name was Pearl. She was generous, kind, and
always giving. A simple homemeker, she was indeed a Pearl of great price.
October 6, 2003
Yesterday two correction officers saved the life of an inmate
living in the prison's Intermediate Care Program.
While making their rounds together and going from cell to cell
to check on the men, they came upon a prisoner who was in the process of slashing his throat.
This happened on a Sunday afternoon when I was not at work.
I have weekends off. But when I came to work this Monday morning I was appraised as to what had happened.
I was disappointed that a man I know and often talked to made
an attempt to end his life. He had done this before, and it seems that each time he tries he gets closer to succeeding.
From what the prison guards who saved his life told me, this
time he came very close. He was rushed to the infirmary to get his wounds stitched and bandaged. Then, from the infirmary,
he will go into the prison's Mental Health Unit for observation.
He may remain in the "observation status" for many months.
He may even get transferred to another facility. If so, I will probably never see him again.
Every correctional facility has a dark cloud that hovers over
it. Some prisoners are more peaceful than others, most of the time; but not always. Other facilities, however, are filled
with daily unrest, violence, and rampaging gangs.
That incarcerated men become depressed and suicidal should
be no surprise. Many factors weigh upon the mind of a man who's caged in a cell.
An inmate grieves for a family faraway, or a failed marriage
and a failed life. He mourns the loss of contact with his children, and even for a lost court case, plus many other things.
October 7, 2003
Imprisonment, by its very nature, exacerbates whatever problems
and difficulties a man may be facing. People from all walks of life face various problems, of course. But being in a cell
far from home and many times unable to get in touch with loved ones via a phone call, or waiting for a letter that never comes
is tremendously stressful.
And because prison inmates are generally not open with each
other due to a perpetual lack of trust, and because there is always a barrier that exists between prisoners and the staff,
much of the time a man keeps all his problems bottled up inside himself. And this is not good.
In addition, depression is seen by both the inmates and prison
staff as a weakness. No man wants to be viewed by his peers or by the guards as being weak.
To a man in such a painful situation death may seem like an
escape. It is not. Rather it is the ultimate loss of life and hope.
I do, however, believe that most suicides are preventable.
The warning signs are there for those who are conerned enough to wqatch for them, and who are trained to recognize them.
Likewise, I can never, with all I know about dealing with my
fellow prisoners, expect a depressed man to take the initiative to tell me that he is feeling suicidal.
I believe that I always have to be alert and vigilant to watch
for the telltale behavioral changes and signs that depressed men exhibit.
I have to take the risk to intervene and reach out in compassion.
I want to be a caring friend and a listening ear.
October 12, 2003
"God puts the lonely into families."
I thank God because He hasn't allowed me to be buried alive
behind these bars and walls.
One of the biggest fears a prisoner has, although it is seldom
spoken amongst us, is that when a man is doing a long sentence, he will be forgotten by those on the outside.
As the time passes, family members die off or move on with
their lives. Friends do the same. They go their own ways never to be heard from again.
At some point, you see, a prisoner will discover that the world
doesn't stop for anyone. He begins to realize that family and friends can get along without him.
As the months march into years, and as the years become decades,
a prisoner finds himself alone and increasingly cut off from the outside world.
To be forgotten is both a scary and lonely feeling. It's as
if a man is both alive but dead.
Yet by God's grace, however, this hasn't happened to me. I
have been incarcerated for 26 years, but I still have my father; although he's in his nineties. While other family members
who I was close to have died while I have been in prison.
In His mercy the Lord has not allowed me to be forgotten. He
has given me some devoted Christian friends with whom I have become very close. We're like family now.
God has been faithful to meet my needs. And God's family is
very big. I am thankful to be a part of it, and I pray that I will never disappoint those who love me.
October 20, 2003
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble
which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But
we had the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God...
2 Corinthians 1:8,9
Today I received a letter from a Christian in Ohio who wrote
to encourage me with God's word. Her kind letter was like fresh bread to my soul.
I am so grateful for men and women who love the Lord, and who
desire to see other Christians encouraged in their faith, always rejoicing and enduring.
For we must all go through our personal tribulations and trials.
I myself cannot expect anything less than intense trials of my faith, even to the point of being "pressed out of measure"
and "despairing even of life."
The apostle Paul said these very words. Yet he said them in
victory and truthfulness, and not in an attitude of self pity.
Paul endured all things even when it hurt. And at times our
trials will hurt us. There will be pain. But this is okay because God is building and developing His character in us. He's
keeping us humble, too.
In time Paul realized that his "thorn in the flesh" was really
a blessing, not a curse.
This thorn, which the enemy of his soul thought would bring
Paul discouragement, instead served to keep him from exalting himself and becoming proud.
October 23, 2003
I have known many instances where deep-seated anger and prolonged
bitterness has driven men psychotic. I'm sure there have been other factors in their lives that caused them to become mentally
ill, too. But my feeling is that anger and bitterness have been big contributors.
Earlier today an inmate who resides in the Intermediate Care
Program's cell block was very agitated about something. When I came to work at 8:30 he was already carrying on and yelling.
Later on, when I had to pass in front of his cell, and as I
stopped to say good morning to him, he tossed a cup of toilet water at me. I saw it coming and I quickly sprang out of the
way on reflex. But he ended up dousing another inmate who was just walking by and minding his business.
The man who got splashed is also mentally ill. He has a habit
of walking in circles in front of the cells of the other prisoners, often in a daze. So he was not able to duck in time.
The inmate who tossed the dirty water from his 12 ounce cup,
however, wasn't really angry at me. He has a history, during his many years of incarceration, of suffering from delusions
often followed by outbursts of anger.
Without daily doses of psychotropic drugs some of the prisoners
will begin to deterioriate emotionally, and then begin to get out of control.
I have had men scream curses at me, and even hiss at me while
in their unmedicated and delusional state. It has been a challenge, I confess, to smile back and speak kindly to someone who
just yellsed every cuss word imaginable at me, sometimes mixed with spit and threats. Prisons are not happy places.
October 30, 2003
The things that are impossible for people to accomplish are
always possible with God. And it never ceases to amaze me at all the ways God utilizes His servants.
This morning a prisoner who's only in his early 20s asked me
to help his gang member sister come to faith in the Lord. He said that she wanted to be saved and to have her sins forgiven.
He is a new Christian and he said that he did not know what
to say. So I wrote this young woman a typewritten letter along with a selection of Scripture verses.
I also wrote a personal prayer for her to say just as if it
was coming from her heart. As far as this man knows, his sister never prayed in her life.
Tomorrow he is going to mail my message and prayer to her.
I hope that when she reads everything carefully she then asks Christ into her heart.
All she has to is use this prayer as a guide.
And from what her brother has shared with me, I can tell she
is hungry for God. She wants to know her Creator and have a long talk with Him.
In the course of our lengthy conversation this prisoner told
me many things about his sister. She's a dedicated gang member, but this is going to change.
I also looked at a handful of photos of this young lady posing
in her gang clothing, her face with an artificial smile looking into a camera. She was proudly flashing various signs
to denote membership. Yet her face told me a lot more, too.
October 31, 2003
Behind the facade of a smile I saw desperation. I saw loneliness.
I looked into a pair of hungry eyes, and I saw a longing soul wanting acceptance from a world she's really afraid of. It's
a world that has given her far more pain than peace.
In my letter to this young woman I said that God knows how
disappointed she's been with life.
I know she has tried all kinds of things and hung out with
all kinds of people in her search for meaning, purpose and happiness. But these have always eluded her like an endless series
of mirages in a dry barren desert.
Drugs were a big letdown. And no one she has ever met,nor has
any man she's ever had sex with, been able to fill her soul with genuine and lasting joy .
I told her, too, how much Jesus loves her and how He longs
to see her turn from her sins. He wants to forgive her and make His home in her heart.
I said that Christ wants to be the friend and companion she's
always wanted, but never knew where to find him. Yet Jesus was there all the time paitently knocking on the door of her heart.
Since yesterday I have been praying for this precious lady. Salvation, I believe, is soon to come her way .