November 4, 2003
It's not a secret anymore. Correctional facilities are filling
up with the mentally ill.
In the 1980s, as States began to look for ways to cut their
ballooning budgets, psychiatric hospitals and mental institutions were among the first to close their doors. Patients were
sent to outpatient facilities. Many eventually ended up as wanderers on city streets, delusional, disturbed, and far from
New York State did likewise. The mentally ill were dumped into
the streets. Now they make up a large portion of New York's prison population.
I just finished reading an enlightening editorial in the New
York Times for Sunday, Novermber 2, 2003, titled "Treating Mental Illness in Prison."
According to the Times' editors, "Two new reports from prison
study groups suggest that mentally ill inmates are prime candidates not just for recidivism, but for destructive behavior
and suicide when prisons fail to handle them properly".
Having been incarcerated for more than twenty-six years, I
know that, for the most part, prisons are primarily for punishment and not for treatment. This current system is not designed
to be kind to the mentall ill.
Of course over the years I have met many dedicated and concerned
correctional employees as well as many from the civililan staff. The latter group who are trained to work with the disturbed.
I know a number of psychiatrists and psychologists, social
workers, therapists and counselors who do try to do their best with the limited resources they have to work with.
November 5, 2003
Still, the negative pull of the prison setting, especially
in walled maximun security facilites where, I assume, most of the inmates who are deemed to suffer from some form of mental
illness live, offset whatever positive therapies a mental health worker could provide.
According to the editorial, "Nearly 45 percent of the prisoners
in the New York study reported that they had tried suicide, more than a third reported self-mutilation and 20 percent had
been previously admitted to a psychiatric hospital."
It then went on to say, "When their prison terms are finsished,
these inmates are dumped onto the streets, where they become a hazard to themselves and to the community."
I have known this for years. I have seen the same faces come
back into the sysyem, some for parole violations, others for new crimes.
It is good, however, that the public is becoming more aware
These reports were done by Human Rights Watch and the Correctional
Association of New York, alert, legitimate, and credible organizations.
As a Christian I view prisons as wide-open mission fields full
of broken, damaged and hurting men and women who need a touch of love from the Lord as well as many words of forgiveness,
hope and healing.
November 7, 2003
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth
him out of them all.
There are times when my body gets weary and my mind becomes
clouded and discouraged. Disappointments assail me from all directions, it seems. And there are actually moments when I feel
like putting down my Bible and giving up.
Yes, these strange thoughts do come my way. But when I think
of my Lord Jesus drenched in his own blood, beaten black and blue, hanging on that splintery cross of Calvary, thirsty, and
in excruciating pain, how I love Him! He gave His life for me. How could I ever quit?
Jesus conquered all that Satan tried to hurt him with. He even
arose from the grave to triumph over death. I can never leave such a King!
Yet it is hard to see myself as being "righteous" in God's
eyes because I know that I often fail Him in many ways. Still, because of His grace and mercy, I have been given Christ's
Now I can stand before a holy and righteous God clean and guilt
free. How wonderful is this truth! Those who do not have such a relationship with Christ cannot fathom such a things. I am
blessed and I am free. I am forgiven.
November 11, 2003
VETERAN'S DAY/ WAR IN IRAQ
Today I prayed for all those who are in our armed forces, and
for all the families of those who recently lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan. I asked the Lord that, whoever these people
are, that He would help and comfort each one of them as they grieve.
Justified or not, good or bad, war always brings pain and loss
and many casualties.
Concerning the war in Iraq, as I prepare this journal entry,
more than 400 of our American troops have lost their lives in Iraq. Many by combat, many by acts of terrorism to include mines
and bombs. Some have also died as a result of tragic accidents.
I wrote some of my feelings about this conflict when it first
began. (See my Journal entries for April 2003).
I primarily focused on the spiritual aspects of this particular
war as well as the fascinating Biblical history of what is now modern day Iraq.
Now, as this war continues, I am convinced more than ever that
there is a spiritual component to this conflict. It is not simply the American military--with the British and some other countries
involved too--versus loyalists to Saddam Hussein or various groups of terrorsts.
Yes, on the surface this is so. But I believe that, in the
spiritual realm there are forces far more diabolical that are at work. And these demonic forces are operating through wicked
men who want to destroy both America and Israel.
November 12, 2003
WAR IN IRAQ
Ultimately every war that takes place in the Middle East slowly
moves the nations of the world to the final war. Armageddon.
The Bible makes it clear that the nations have a destiny. That
the land of Israel exists today and is surrounded by nations that hate her is not happenstance.
There is a 'spirit of anti-Semitism" that exists which has
permeated our natural world. There is a spirit world, too, that hates the Jews along with all people and nations who love
Israel and want to help her.
One day, say the ancient prophets, the City of Jerusalem will
become a "cup of trembling" unto all people. And at this time those on the earth who hate the Jews will be "gathered together
against it". (Zechariah 12:2,3)
And today, even if the actual battle of Armageddon is still
a long way off, I see how more and more people are beginning to hate the United States.
I believe that this increasing hatred for America and her citizens
is being inspired by demons. It is part of a plan now being developed deep in the hearts of wicked men to damage and destroy
the United States in every way possible because of America's support for Israel.
It would take pages to explain the workings of Bible prophecy.
Yet God has laid it all out in His Word. And a day is comeing when multitudes of people throughout the world will be turning
to the Holy Scriptures for the answers to what is going on in the world.
Right now, however, those who are in our Armed Forces and who
are serving in the Middle East need our prayers. Evil can be beaten back, even if it is only for a season. God does answer
prayer. The spiritual forces that have inspired terrorists to kill America's troops can be toppled. But God fearing people
November 15, 2003
Within the space of a few hours the news began to circulate
throughout the prison. Charlie Wesson (pseudonym), was found dead in his cell. He was forty-eight years old, and it is assumed,
he probably suffered a massive heart attack or a stroke.
Charlie was a thin black man who had been in prison for 27
years. His health was poor. He looked fifteen years older than his age. He was a heavy smoker, too.
In fact, just a few weeks ago I wrote about him in my journal.
This was the man who tossed toilet water at me during an episode of psychotic rage (Journal for October 23rd).
For an approximately two week period during the second half
of October, Charlie was unapproachable. He would curse and snarl at anyone who happened to walk in front of his cell. He also
had a history of verbally and violently lashing out at both the inmates and staff.
However when Charlie was stable he was a pleasant person to
talk to. Over the years he and I had many good conversations. He followed the Muslim religion, but he told me that his family
Sometimes when I went to work in the E-North cell block, I
would bring him a handful of Lipton tea bags and packets of sugar, which he loved.
Charlie couldn't write very well and he was partially crippled
in one arm. So about every other month he would ask me to write a letter to his sister for him.
We'd sit at a table in the recreation area of the cell block
and he would dictate to me what he wanted me to tell her.
Charlie's letters were short and simple. He never had much
to say. Now he's gone, suddenly and unespectedly.
November 16, 2003
Friday afternoon was the last time I saw Charlie Wesson (pseudonym)
alive. We talked for several minutes and he seemed fine. He always had a sickly look about him, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Then shortly after Saturday's lunch meal, Charlie laid down on his bunk to take a nap from which he would never awaken.
An officer making his rounds saw Charlie lying on his bunk,
but not breathing. The officer then called in a "Code Blue" using his walkie-talkie. A medical team responding from the prison's
hospital could not revive him with CPR. He was gone.
This morning, being a Sunday, I requested and received special
permission from the area sergeant to be able to go to E-North to visit the residents.
I am not assigned to report for work on weekends. But the sergeant
thought it was a good idea if I spent time with the men before I had to leave for this morning's chapel service at 10 a.m.
I did get to spend about two hours with the guys. Some of them
were clearly grieving. I brought along four sympathy cards for the men to sign as a group. And each one was able to write
a special message for Charlie's family.
Within a short time the cards were all filled. On Monday the
civilian counselor for E-North will mail these cards to Charlie's sister. She's going to be touched that he had so many friends.
His only family, however, consists of one sister and a niece.
Charlie grew up poor in a housing project in the Bronx. He
died poor in a prison cell.
November 17, 2003
CHARLIE'S PACKED UP
It was back to work for me on this Monday. It was uncomfortable
having to walk passed Charlie Wesson's cell as I made my rounds.
I would look into what was his little living space as a matter
of habit expecting to see Charlie sitting on his bunk smoking one of his hand-rolled cigarettes.
Now his prison cell sits with his property all in place as
if he left only for a few hours and was expecting to return at any time.
It will take some getting used to not seeing Charlie around
and not being able to talk with him during his lucid periods.
Probably by tomorrow a few corrections officers will come,
as per the guidelines and protocol, to pack Charlie's things.
Everything he owned, which wasn't much, will be packed into
canvass bags and then itemized in the Office of the prison's Personal Property Clerk.
These large bags containing Charlie Wesson's personal property
will be stored for about thirty days to give his family time to come to the facility to pick up his property. He had a handful
of old family photos, too.
If his famikly doesn't come to claim his things within the
specified time, all the items will be discarded in the trash. Who needs a dead man's clothes?
Then, probably by tomorrow afternoon or the following day,
what was once Charlie's cell will be occupied by another prisoner.
There will be no memories of Charlie except in my head.
November 22, 2003
TWO OR THREE
For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there
I am in the midst of them.
This Saturday moring I spent about 1 1/2 hours walking in the
prison's large recreation yard with my brother in Christ, Alan. It was a beautiful day and unseasonably warm for late November.
It was refreshing to spend the time with my friend. Alan always
shares words of encouragement which help to strengthen my spirit. And since I have been going through some personal challenges
and hardships, I needed to be with Alan and the Lord.
What I love about spending time with friends in the faith is
that, when we're together, the Lord joins us. As Jesus says in the Bible, He is present whenever His children gather together
in his name. Plus He lives in my heart even at this very moment.
Knowing this, I can continue to go forward fighing the "good
fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12).
November 23, 2003
Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven...
Today I was reading one of my favorite stories in the Bible:
the sinful woman who in an act of love and humble contrition fell at Jesus' feet weeping and washing His feet with her tears.
She also poured scented ointment over His feet and then wiped them dry with her hair.
In her lifetime she committed many sins. Sadly she was held
in low regard by the people in her community. But the Lord Jesus told this woman that her sins were forgiven, and that she
could go from His presence in peace knowing that His words were true.
Then, shortly after I put down my Bible, I had the urge to
pick up my pen and write about forgiveness.
This is what I wrote:
Forgiveness is power. It is love and mercy in action. It breaks
bondages and sets people free in thier hearts and minds.
Forgiveness makes for peace and reconciliation, and it puts
relationships in a new and fresh perspective.
Inner wounds and deep hurts can be healed through forgiveness.
It lifts the oppressive and crushing weight of guilt. It gives a person a new start in life, a new beginning, and a strong
hope for the future.
Forgiveness is a gift from God. A wonderful peace replaces
the torment of many past transgressions.
November 25, 2003
As an "oldtimer" in prison, it is very sad when I see young
men in their late teens or early twenties coming into the system, especially when they have long sentences that stretch across
I think the gang scene is all fake. It's a big lie. These guys
kill each other over meaningless territories, over gang colors, or for some other ridiculous reason.
It takes no brains or skill to point a gun at another person
and pull the trigger. Yet they took a life thinking it would bring them respect.
Men would get more respect, in my opinion, of they were to
lead productive law-abiding lives rather than trying to become Killers and Thugs.
To me, a man with an education is smarter and stronger than
a fool with a weapon in his hand.
Those who have been drawn to gangsterism have been decieved.
They are running down a road that leads to misery and death.
Once a judge pounds his gavel down and says "twenty-five years",
it's over for that person.
Some of these men, however, when the prison doors slam shut
behind them do wake up to this truth; but it is to late.
(For another journal entry about gangs, see November 23, 2002.)
November 28, 2003
I thank God that when I was attending public school and I was
having problems concentrating, learning, and with self-control, that my parents made a lot of effort to get me to buckle down.
My dad tutored me in math as we sat at our kitchen table. My mom would keep after me to do my homework.
After my mother passed away and my dad tried his best to raise
me, he found it necessary to lecture me frequentnly about staying in school.
I had, at the time, begun to cut classes and play hooky. When
my dad found out about this he was very upset and disappointed. But he did his best to keep after me and in 1971 I did finish
high school without my having to repeat certain classes.
Sadly, however, here in prison I've met hundreds of inmates
who could barely read or write.
Having an education means something. We need it to get ahead
in this world and to get a decent job.
When it is time for a man to leave prison, he has to leave
with an education. An inmate should at least get a General Equivalencey Diploma (GED) before he walks out the door, if possible.
The tragedy is that many prisoners still do not try to learn.
Just like I once did, they have problems concentrating; they lack self-discipline, too.
Many of these men have trouble writing a legible letter. What
chance will a man have once he's released and is sent back into sucn a technologically advanced world?
November 29, 2003
SOWING & REAPING
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth,
that shall he also reap.
Once a young man decides to pick up a gun or another kind of
weapon and hurt someone with it, he's finished. He has just made the worst mistake of his life.
He may have acted impulsively in a fit of anger, or perhaps
out of a desire for revenge. But by doing this act of violence he has created a hell for himself.
This man will go to prison. He wil do hard time. He will have
a criminal record that will follow him all the days of his life.
Over time, as this man remains incarcerated, he may lose contact
with his family. Feelings of loneiness will overwhelm him, and the walls of his prison cell will sometimes feel as if they're
closing in on him. I myself have experienced this somothering feeling many times.
Committing a crime will only bring pain, grief and destruction.
The victim and his family, and the offender and his family, will suffer for decades to come.
Doing harm to someone is just not worth it.
November 30, 2003
When you intentionally hurt someone, whether you're trying
to bully or slander them, or if you are attacking them with your fists or a weapon, you're also hurting a piece of yourself.
I believe that, inwardly, a tiny piece of us dies when we do
harm to others.
As time goes on you will never forget that person's face. It
will be a face that will haunt you for a lifetime.
In addition, your conscience will not allow you to forget the
bad things you've done to people. For our Creator has placed in each of us a conscience that will never stop speaking to our
soul. And it is a terrible, gnawing feeling that stays with us until things are made right.
The pain you cause other will always come back to you, maybe
not in the exact same way; but it will come.
No one ever escapes wrongdoing. I know these things from my
own experiences and my own mistakes.