December 31, 2016

In the 6 months after I pled guilty, but before I was sentenced, I was repeatedly asked, "Don't you have a drug or alcohol problem?" "Are you SURE you don't have a drug or alcohol problem? If so, you can probably get a year off your sentence." These were valid questions, though, because it's true. I could have received a sentence reduction by participating in a Residential Drug and Alcohol Program, code named RDAP, offered by the Bureau of Prisons. While getting a year off my sentence sounded like wonderful idea, I wasn't a fit for RDAP. I repeatedly explained that I had many other addictions and compulsive behaviors that were equally as worthy as drugs or alcohol. Where are the programs for pride, perfectionism, fear, lust? What's wrong with these? With the BOP, unfortunately, only drugs and alcohol count as addictions.

So what is addiction? If I may, I define it as an overwhelming urge to live (think, speak, act) in an unhealthy way that is contrary to my best interests, but over whic...

December 26, 2016

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya as part of a choir. It was one of those "mission trips" that really aren't mission trips. Calling it a cultural exchange seemed more accurate. It was a brutal trip in some respects, beginning with a 3-legged flight. First we flew from Dallas to Chicago, with a 6 hour layover. Then there was Chicago to London, with a 12 hour layover. Finally we flew London to Nairobi. Once I left Chicago, I sincerely believed that I should have been in first class. Of course this would have left the rest of the choir in coach, but that seemed secondary to me.

Far be it from me to whine, but when we landed in Nairobi, I felt like I had spent the entire trip improperly folded in my carry-on bag. Then I tore a bicep tendon and labrum in my shoulder, which required surgery when I got home. It constantly hurt. Then I couldn't eat and lost 20 pounds before I returned. OK, I am whining, but despite the "missionary sacrifice," the trip was surprisingly...

December 21, 2016

It's quite festive here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, in an Conspicuously Secular Winter Holiday ("CSWH") sort of way. The CSWH decorating committee has pulled out all the stops to decorate the camp to the max. We have some extremely talented artists among the inmate population. They have constructed and painted beautiful wooden cutouts of various Disney characters which adorn the visiting areas and sidewalks leading to the camp. In the visitors room we have a CSWH tree and a fireplace, and outside are large decorated wooden cutout trees, reindeer, and candy canes. There are also colored lights in the flower beds. We'll have many children visit over the next few weeks, and the decorations will be help create a good setting for quality family time. Even inside the housing unit, the doors to the Counselor, Case Manager and Secretary's offices are decorated with wrapping paper and wreaths. By any standard, not just our usual modified half-ass Bureau of Prisons standard, the place loo...

December 16, 2016

I've written before about the Chow Hall here at Bastrop Federal Satellite camp, but that's only part of our culinary adventure. Dinner is served at 3:00 pm daily. That's a little early for me, but there is supposed to be a later seating immediately after our 4:00 pm count. Unfortunately, some of the kitchen supervisors like to leave early, meaning that the later seating sometimes doesn't happen. By evening, most of us are hungry. For me, that often means peanut butter and crackers, which I purchase from the commissary. Occasionally I might create some variety with crackers, sausage and cheese. However some inmates are much more creative. 

The challenge to creativity is that there are no microwaves, hot plates, or ovens here. Some camps have them, but we don't. What we do have though is artful American and Mexican resourcefulness. There are 8 sinks in the Westside bathroom, 5 being presently operational. In the early evening on most days, every sink is in use, as the bathroom becomes a m...

December 11, 2016

Months before my arrival at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, a wise friend told me that going to prison was not unlike going to a monastery. Admittedly, I had no desire to go to a monastery, but it did seem slightly preferable to a federal prison. I've taken that advice to heart, trying to live life here with that perspective, using this time to attempt to better understand myself and God. This blog has served as a medium to write about that journey. My desire is still that doing so might help others who might be a little lost.

One fact has become very apparent--the more I search for God, the less I know. I'm completely OK with that, and not necessarily because I'm getting dumber. God just keeps getting bigger. I agree with Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who wrote, "The extreme human knowledge of God is to know that we do not know God." I'm convinced of one thing though, the lens through which we best see and know God (and ourselves and everyone else) is compassion.

Thupten Jinpa Langri is a...

December 6, 2016

I may not understand much, but as I'm here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I understand the federal criminal justice system reasonably well. Many say it's broken, but it's not broken at all. It's very much alive and well and churning along like a bureaucratic behemoth. In it's wake are legions and legions of scavengers, also called federal employees and lawyers, sponging off the system. But that's another story. In short, the federal criminal justice system works on the principle of retribution, which is characterized by punishment and payment. Christians sometimes confuse that with God's justice, which is completely different. God's justice is based solely on mercy. 

Most American religion doesn't see it that way, though. It has to perform double back flips to combine retribution and mercy, coming up with a bifurcated doctrine that says that God is merciful up to a point but then gives up on us. Then we run out of chances and eternal retribution takes over. If we don't "get washed i...

December 1, 2016

I have to admit that in my late teens, I was occasionally overcome with a spirit of naughtiness. More often than not, this spirit would descend upon me while in a high school classroom. I had a true partner in crime in this little side show. I won't call his name because he reads this blog and is now allegedly respectable. We reached our zenith in 11th grade chemistry class. First, it was a subject that neither of us understood or even wanted to understand. In fact, I would have never passed it without the help of another friend who patiently taught me the course material. I won't call her name either for similar reasons. I certainly don't want anyone to think either of these fine folks had any past association with a felon. Our chemistry teacher unfortunately thought she could match wits with our mischief making. She might have, too; but she completely underestimated our disruptive tenacity. Invariably we knew that we had won when she yelled, "JUST SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!"

That statement...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones