May 31, 2016

Being an investment advisor in a bear market is challenging, but it's a cake walk compared to being the coach pitcher in 1993 for my daughter Jana's 9-year-old softball team. To speed up the game, the league rules were that after 3 balls were thrown to each batter on our team, I would come in and serve up 3 hittable pitches. If all 3 pitches weren't perfect, all hell would break loose in OUR stands and MY dugout. The pressure was more intense than it should have been for 9-year-old softball, but such is life in Texas. In my fleeting memory, I was quite good; but there are parents today who still mention that I led the league in strikeouts that year.

 

Before I learned about the game-time stress, our team had its first practice game. Jana came to the plate in the first inning, and the count quickly went to 3 balls. It was my turn. The first pitch was absolutely perfect. She watched it hit the catcher's mitt and gave me a dirty look. The second pitch, again right down the middle, elicited...

May 26, 2016

We had a tornado at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp that damaged several large trees on the campus and caused us to be without power for about 8 hours. The corrections officer on duty that night wisely told all the inmates to stay out of the Recreation Pavilion. However he said that we could go into the mobile home that serves as the Hobby Craft Room. Don't mobile homes serve as tornado magnets?

 

I was asked last week by a young African American inmate if I knew why Harriet Tubman had been selected to appear on our country's currency. Luckily I had just listened to a radio report, so I was able to answer. I asked him whom he thought should have been selected and he replied "Halle Berry."

 

Apparently the Regional Office of the Bureau of Prisons is coming for an inspection because all of the black mold has been covered with fresh paint and the bathroom sinks have been replaced so they all now work for the first time since I arrived on August 26, 2015. I can only hope that the bat colony liv...

May 23, 2016

I try to stay out of the TV Room at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. The word is that most of the disturbances either take place or start there, so it just seems like a good place to avoid. There are TVs outside in the Recreation Pavilion that provide an excellent venue for watching college football and basketball, CBS Sunday Morning, and 60 Minutes, which is all the television that I need. However, as I'm ending my 9th month here, I have learned some of the ins and outs of TV culture at this federal prison camp.

 

I've learned that the TV Room, like society in general, is divided into unique subcultures, and it appears that our room has distinctly three. Let's call the first “Redneck Rendezvous,” with 2 TVs where "Me and My Cousin Eugene Are Trying To Catch That There Monster Catfish" and "Alaska Also Has White Trash" are on a continual loop. Only one inmate may be in charge of the remote, determined each day by whomever is in attendance and has the fewest teeth. There's an unwritten rul...

May 18, 2016

My most enjoyable times here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp have been spent in the law library. Often it's full of genuine characters--some with genuine character. One night in March, I was writing a letter there and was alone, except for one of my fellow campers, another white collar inmate in his mid-30s who is one the brightest men here and one of my favorites. He looked up from his writing and asked, "You're kind of religious, right?" I just started laughing...for quite a while.

 

Finally, being a good Recovering Baptist who is more than comfortable with measuring and weighing religion, even my own, I replied, "On a scale of 1-10, I'm about a 6.875." That D+ score was apparently just high enough for the follow-up question which was, "If Jesus Christ is the only way to God, what about the kid on an island in the Pacific who dies having never heard about Jesus?"

 

By this time, I was really laughing and replied, "You really want me to answer the question that has no answer?" He said h...

May 14, 2016

As an inmate at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I seem to have ample time to remember events I've tried to forget.

For example, I was once a member of a church which faced a dilemma. It had to decide if it wanted to run smoothly or try to live out the gospel. The personalities within the church sadly made it impossible to do both. Each group feared the other, for good reason. I have to admit, at the outset I was on the fence. I ultimately had to side against the organizers, but it wasn't from some deep sense of trying to live out the gospel. The gospelers were simply much more fun to be around. Ultimately, those who wanted a smooth organization won the day, as they were just better organized. Duh. It was a painful experience for the church, as the "music died" when the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost "took the last train for the coast," to later return after a long, long, long sabbatical. But at least I learned something from it.

I learned that the grunt work of living out the Good News...

May 10, 2016


Recently, at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, a sign up sheet was posted for a yoga class. I was excited about this, as I was very interested in participating. A month later, a participant list was posted for the yoga class, and my name was on the list. At 4:30 pm when the class was to begin, nobody showed--no inmates, no teacher, just me. I asked the officer in charge of recreation about it, and he advised me to ask the inmate leader. The inmate leader said to ask the officer. Two weeks later, the same thing happened. Now I was really confused and was determined to get to the bottom of what appeared to be a practical joke.

In the middle of asking everyone whom I thought might know, my bunkie, who is charge of watching my back, explained that I had signed up for a "ghost class" and that I should quit asking questions. I believe the quote again this time was, "It's again not Charlie's way, right away. Not today."

So in today's chapter of "Life Lessons From Prison," I will be...

May 6, 2016

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Her TED Talk on shame was my introduction to TED Talks, and I was immediately her biggest fan. In her Book Rising Strong, she writes this "Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted."

 

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers

Than those of us who are willing to fall

Because we have learned how to rise

 

With skinned knees and bruised hearts;

We choose owning our stories of struggle,

Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.

 

When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we run from struggle, we are never free.

So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.

 

We will not be characters in our stories.

Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

 

We are the authors of our lives.

We write our own daring endings.

 

We craft love from heartbreak,

Compassion from shame,

Grace from disappointment,

Courage from failure.

 

Showing up is our power.

Story is our way home.

Truth is our song.

We a...

May 2, 2016

Greetings for Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. It's raining and I'm in the Maintenance Warehouse pondering how the hell I got here. Since that question is too deep a subject for my shallow brain, let's go for a not-so-deep observation about where I'm from.

 

I'm an unapologetic southern boy. I'm proud of that heritage and wouldn't trade it for any other. I can remember getting goose bumps in jr. high when our high school band would play Dixie. At that sound, my classmates and I would just go nuts with our rebel yells...in our segregated school.

 

But there is something unique about the South. We lost the Civil War, aka the War of Northern Aggression, but, through some weird warp of reality, put up statues and named schools after a bunch of war heroes who LOST THE FREAKIN WAR. Has that ever happened before in history? I've never been to Germany, but are there statues of Rommel or Goering everywhere? They were good generals. After the battle of San Jacinto, did Texas rename the Alamo, Santa A...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones