November 30, 2015

Since I arrived at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp on August 26th, many people have sent books and magazines from my Amazon Wish List (listed under Unfortunately, by the time I receive them, the packages have been opened, inspected and the sender’s name is sometimes missing. If you have done that and I haven’t personally thanked you, it’s because I don’t know you were the sender, but thank you very much. These books have been entertaining and inspirational. Some have significantly impacted the focus of my thoughts and what I’ve written here.


While here, I have rediscovered the joy and beauty of the written letter, which apparently is not a lost art. Unlike email or texts, written letters can be savored and loved. I’m amazed that my friends have semi-legible handwriting. Without a doubt, mail call is the highlight of my day. Many have written words of encouragement and support, some have included pictures, articles, and newspaper clippings. Knowing that people I love...

November 27, 2015

Although my memory is not infallible, I believe I have spent the last 36 Thanksgivings with my in-laws. I was blessed to have married into a wonderful family. One generation from our Thanksgiving gatherings has left this earth, but it now includes three generations of smart, funny, creative and loving people who have stuck together through the ups and downs of life.


My mother-in-law had the most contagious laugh that would bubble up and out and fill the room. My sister-in-law inherited it. As long as my father-in-law was alive, there was never a doubt that he would say the same Thanksgiving Blessing before our huge meal. Since he passed away, we now all awkwardly stand around not making eye contact until the job falls on my nephew who is on a church staff. He’s a paid professional, a hired gun, who dutifully accepts the challenge. He always nails it.


Since the epic but thoughtful movie “Talladega Nights”, immediately after the blessing, I have looked at my kids and said, “He made that...

November 21, 2015

This will no doubt be the most difficult post I have attempted to write. I am reluctant to broach this painful subject for fear that my words will be inadequate to express just how BAD the music is at the Christian Chapel services at Bastrop FSC. We have song books, we have a decent pianist, a piano that’s in tune, and a talented guitarist. It shouldn’t be that hard to make good music. But it is.  The microphones are so loud that I can’t hear the piano to know which key we are in.  Apparently the singers don’t know the key either. We are so musically inept, we can’t even sing Amazing Grace.

In my life, I’ve been fortunate the sing in some outstanding choral groups led by talented directors. If they could hear this, those still alive would immediately die, then all would in unison roll over in their graves on three. Speaking of three, we have no rhythm either. It reminds me of the first few measures of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” where I can never tell if it’s in 4/4 or 6/8…but in a...

November 20, 2015

Americans have tossed around the word freedom for almost 240 years. Freedom was one of the reasons for our country’s birth. We’re supposed to be “the land of the free…” Freedom is so important that good people die for it.


How does that translate to my current environment? Obviously prison is a place where freedom is intentionally limited. However, the reality is that Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp at any given moment is never that bad. I’ve been in church ministry conferences that were far worse and seemed longer. It’s only bad because an external authority requires, no demands, that I must stay here. Certainly that is a freedom limitation, but compared to what?


From 2004-2013, I lived my life as if I were riding on the back of a gigantic bear. I thought that if I attempted to jump off, the bear would devour me. I didn’t think I could tell anyone, so nobody knew. How free is that?


Two years ago, I got off the bear’s back. He chewed me up badly, but he didn’t eat me. It was a treacherou...

November 16, 2015

Let’s face it. I have often embraced my own superficial side. For instance, I have always had a keen awareness of clothes, both good and bad. As long as I can remember, I’ve known what was in and out of style. I remember as early as elementary school, my mother threatened me with “husky” jeans if I didn’t lose some weight. This would have been a fate worse than death, as no fashionable boy would wear them, so I lost some weight. I also remember my red, white and blue wing tips with the 2″ heels that I proudly wore with my red double knit bell bottoms with 2″ cuffs, my white belt and my red, white, and blue double knit shirt during my senior year of high school in 1971. This outfit would have no doubt exploded had I gotten close to an open flame.


I’m afraid that I didn’t leave my keen fashion eye at home when I arrived at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Granted the choices are very limited here, but, with practice, one can still be judgmental in almost any environment. For example, do y...

November 6, 2015

One of the good guys at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp left on November 2nd, after serving an 18 month sentence. He had been a banker in his former life, was an excellent spades player and I liked him very much. He was the “barista” in the Chow Hall making what some, certainly not him or me, called coffee. We called him Dirty Mike because the nickname was simply the antithesis of who he was, and he didn’t really like it. It’s good to see and remember that inmates do leave this camp and it’s not Hotel California.


As all my TV watching is outside, I was excited that I ended up with his sweatpants. He also left me a Snickers and a Twix candy bar which I am saving. Unfortunately, his running shoes didn’t fit, as mine don’t either. He was supposed to leave me his hair gel, but I think he forgot. Maybe he will violate the terms of his probation and will be sent back so I can get it. I badly need some hair gel to look my best, and the commissary is out.


That’s a little dark prison humor to br...

November 5, 2015

Scabies is a contagious itch or mange caused by a parasite. I don’t want it, but some unfortunate inmate brought it to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp last summer. He was gone before I arrived on August 26th, but left this deposit as a parting gift. His bunk mate came down with the symptoms immediately, but it took the medical staff almost a month to determine the cause. By then ten other inmates had it. It’s not fun.


All my information about the first outbreak is second hand, and I’m sure facts have evolved into myth over the 3 months since it happened. I guess the good news is that I didn’t experience the first infestation. The bad news is that it’s back, or never left.


When this happened the Warden showed up for a Town Hall Meeting and said she was going to do a Barney Fife (my words, not hers) on scabies and nip it…in the bud. Apparently she had not heard that the bud had flowered and was about to go to seed. I was still glad to see her.


In the meeting the inmates were told to put a...

November 3, 2015

My first introduction to solitude was driving a tractor when I was in high school. While my primary gift was destroying farm equipment, quiet hours did become days, which became weeks in detached and precise pasture shredding. There was something Zen-like in spending time with my thoughts. Since I was a teenager, my thoughts weren’t particularly Zen-like–they were anything but transformational. My idea of nirvana would was a movie date the following Saturday, which was as far as I planned ahead.


While I’m at Bastrop FSC, I want to seriously explore the beneficial aspects of solitude and meditation. That can be challenging when I have 87 roommates, but it can also be challenging when there are children to raise or a demanding career to manage. We all have our excuses.


Of course I’m not just referring to being alone. It’s about where the mind goes while I’m alone. One of my favorite spiritual writers is Richard Rohr who believes that western Christianity needs to rediscover the importanc...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones