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.
* 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...
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...
* 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...
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...
* 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...
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...
I recently had an inmate explain to me how banks loan money. He couldn't have been more wrong, and I should have just let it go. But instead I stepped off into the tar pit. When I tried to explain where he had gotten a little off track, he replied, "Well, you know what you know, and I know what I know." Perceptive comment? Probably not.
Research indicates that when we are ignorant about something, let's say something like climate change, immigration, religion, criminal justice or banking, we still self-assess ourselves as competent . It's called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, named after the researchers who identified the concept.
This research begins to make sense when I consider it because, with any topic, I'm evaluating my ignorance about that topic with the same ignorance I used to come up with my ignorance in the first place. My ignorance feeds my confidence, which only feeds my ignorance, which feeds my...you get the point...hopefully...unless you're...
If you have been recently watching Fox News, which I don't and I pray you don't, I'm told you heard Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and John Kennedy (R-LA) whining to Tucker Carlson and anyone else who would listen about the hundreds of murderers and rapists released from federal prisons into the neighborhoods of America in late July by the First Step Act. I don't know if they're ignorant or just intentionally twisting the facts, but I guess their capacities or motives are irrelevant. The facts are they're wrong. At this time, Federal prisoners have been released under the FSA for only 1 of 3 reasons.
1. Existing law has always allowed inmates to earn 54 days of Good Time Credits for each year of their sentence during which they exhibit exemplary behavior. However, the Bureau of Prisons, in it's limited wisdom, has calculated 54 days to mean only 47 days. In the FSA, Congress told the BOP to fix its faulty math. The BOP delayed this fix for 7 months, but on July 19th finally started giving i...
One of the best guys I know here, actually one of the best guys I've ever known, is my buddy Bounce. He has that Yard Name, aka Nickname, because he walks with a slight limp, a result of having cerebral palsy at birth. I still remember when we met him, and he said I could call him Bounce. Finally, after almost 4 years, it occurred to me to ask him if he liked being calling that. He replied, "Not really. I just picked it up in prison and it stuck." So now I have to try not to call him that, which is really annoying.
I've written about yard names before, but there are some here that are nowhere near politically correct. They just ain't right, but are readily accepted by the person. With these names it's typical to hear, "Hi, I'm _____," often to where nobody knows his real name. A few examples include the following:
Simple Paul (Mentally challenged)
Osama Buck Laden (Muslim with big teeth)
Tourette's (Self explanatory)