© 2016 by Charles D. Jones

April 1, 2020

* I am pleased to announce that Freddy, the puppy I raised for Canine Companions for Independence, passed his initial service dog tests with flying colors. His report card did mention that he sometimes whines when life isn’t going his way. That hasn’t changed from his first night with me. I do miss that boy. He’s a very special dog.

* I’ve had several people mention to me that they now understand what home confinement is like. Thankfully they really don’t. But if martial law is instituted requiring everyone to stay home without specific permission to leave, they’ll be close.

* The first inmate in federal custody has died of the coronavirus at the prison camp in Oakdale, Louisiana. I can’t think of a worse place to be in a pandemic than at a federal prison camp. All prisons are overcrowded, but none more than camps which have the lowest security level. Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp housed twice as many inmates as it was designed to hold. It was ill-equipped and staffed to handle even rou...

February 18, 2020

* My baby boy would have been 33 today. I still frequently talk to him and find him only slightly less communicative, as he wasn’t much for small talk in life, at least not with his family. He wasn’t that way with friends, though.  It was like he found us comparatively boring, which is odd to me, as I thought we were at least almost interesting. How could anyone who has been to prison be boring? It may sound strange, but he has spoken to me since his death 5 years ago. Maybe that occurred when I was in one of those “thin places” that the ancient Celts observed where there is but scant distance between my mortal world and the immortal world I’ve yet to fully comprehend. I wish I were able to find these places more often so he could talk to me, but my sense is that the harder I try to find them, the less my chance. My wife says that thin places occur when our need to hear collides with our desire to listen, and she’s definitely onto something. I hope you will take a moment to remember Wa...

January 31, 2020

* Living under the roofline is still is a little…confining. That’s all I have to say about that.

* The Biblical accounts of wilderness have always captivated me, and that was before I spent 4 years in the wilderness of Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. I continue to believe I have yet to grasp much of what these stories have to teach me. In case you don’t remember, there’s the account in the book of Exodus of Moses’ escape from Egypt to the land of Midian, where he stayed for 40 years. Then he went back to Egypt to take the Israelites on yet another 40 year trek through the Sinai Peninsula. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, a time that shaped his life, ministry, and ultimately caused his death. Some might say that our own personal wilderness experiences are the result of sin. Others think of the wilderness as a place of temptation and/or scarcity. I guess that’s right, but I believe it's way more. It seems to me that the Biblical accounts of th...

December 25, 2019

It’s hard to measure the spiritual health of a nation, but perhaps the best barometer is how it treats people in the margins--the widows, orphans and those who are displaced by famine, drug lords or war.

I’ve read that there are about 200 million displaced people in the world today. Historically, our country has granted asylum to about 100,000 of these folks each year. Thanks to the restrictive policies of the current administration, that number will shrink to about 18,000 this year. For the richest country in the history of the world, that’s shameful.

We can choose to let our collective psyche be controlled by those who seek power by promoting fear and a sense of scarcity, or we can live by love and accept the reality that we have enough, if not an abundance.

That could go a long way toward making America great again.

October 31, 2019

* Yeah, I’ve left Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, but you can still sleep safely. I’m not completely “in the community” yet. Home confinement, while wonderful, is still somewhat confining, as I’m not allowed to leave the roofline of the house without permission. I’ve never spent much time observing rooflines before, but let me tell you, they’re not all the same. My advice to anyone considering home confinement would be to choose a home with large covered porches. Also look for an extra wide roof overhang, so that you can slip around on the outside walls of the house to get some sun or hook up a water hose.

* Being Dees, the granddad, is the best job I’ve ever had. Charlotte is 29 months old and has a knack, if not a special calling, for telling me what to do or not do. I’m the associate director of bath time, and have tried to make it fun, but it’s challenging when the kid knows that bed time ALWAYS follows a bath. No self-respecting 29-month-old wants to go to bed at 7:30pm. Despite ha...

September 11, 2019

Somewhere between 48 months and a lifetime ago, I began this weird journey at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. As I stand now at the threshold of leaving here, I'm reminded of the words of the late and beloved Gilda Radner who, at the threshold of leaving this earthly life wrote, "Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about NOT knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next." That's the delicious ambiguity of life.

I'm leaving here tomorrow. Thanks to Jared Kushner, his father-in-law, and the First Step Act enacted last December, I will be allowed to spend two-thirds of my 6 year sentence here and the remainder in home confinement because I'm a non-violent, elderly offender. While grateful, I'm not excited about being considered elderly, but if the senior discount works....And if you're a tax payer, you should also be grateful, because my early departure will save the federal government at...

September 5, 2019

* I can't imagine anyone who knows anything about a federal prison, and that should include our current Attorney General, being surprised by the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. But I understand why the rest of the country might wonder how in the world that could happen in a secure facility. It's impossible for the uninformed to imagine the incompetence of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It has to be experienced first hand. It's an organization run by forms, many of which are routinely fraudulently prepared. That works well though in a culture based on lies, CYA, laziness, and blame shifting. And the union will make sure none of that ever changes. I wish the new acting director good luck, but realize she will need more than luck.

* I've said before that the inmate population here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp is no more weird than a typical Baptist church. After 4 years and witnessing more than a 90% turnover in population, I stand by that keen if unprofessional analysis. I've ne...

August 30, 2019

While I enjoy and appreciate the company of many people, I can count only a limited number of deep, soul searching conversations I've had in my life. I can be a decent listener, even empathetic in a pinch, but often the words I need to express much depth simply don't come out when I need them. However writing comes easier. In the written word I can organize and express my thoughts in ways that seem more linear than circular. The words make more sense, at least to me.

In that way, writing this blog has been the product of soul searching: admitting defeat and claiming victory, convicting and forgiving myself and others, acknowledging pain and loss and being seized by joy. I've written myself out of anger, hurt, abandonment and out of deep and dark funks.

From the beginning of this writing experience, I've sensed that I was not alone in my need for introspection and direction. It's my hope that in some small way, I've positively impacted those who read this. If I'm anything of a writer thou...

August 25, 2019

* I was called back yet again for an encore of my Spanish language singing in the Catholic service here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Except this time, instead of a solo, it was an unexpected duet with another inmate. Even the band was surprised that he decided to sing with me. He's a good man who unfortunately can't sing a lick. He was off key, both sharp and flat at various times, and had no rhythm. But he more than overcame those limitations by singing really loudly in my ear. Apparently the Catholics will let anyone sing. Oh, wait...

* I've heard various writers explain the difference between happiness and joy, but none better than David Brooks in his latest book The Second Mountain. Brooks writes "We can create happiness, but we are seized by joy...Happiness tends to be individual; we measure it by asking, 'Are you happy?' Joy tends to be self transcending. Happiness is something you pursue; joy is something that rises up unexpectedly and sweeps over you. Happiness comes from...

August 20, 2019

If you're going to spend 48 months in Federal Prison, which I can't recommend to anyone who's not a jerk, you might as well try to learn something. So what have I learned at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp since my unceremonious arrival in August, 2015?

1. Patience: Nothing, other than punishment, happens here when it should by any normal "free world" standard. How long does it take to fix a urinal? That sounds like the opening line of a joke. So far, it's about 9 months.

2. Gratitude: Going to prison has been not unlike attending my own funeral. Thankfully, I had more friends show up than I expected, but they weren't exactly the ones I thought would be here for me. It's been profoundly enlightening to see who signed the Guest Book and who didn't. 

3. Skepticism: The federal criminal justice system, particularly the Bureau of Prisons, cannot be trusted.

4. Humility: As bad as it was here financially at times, I found it impossible to ask for money for commissary expenses. Nevertheless, perc...

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