April 29, 2017

Soon after I arrived at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I had a conversation with another inmate during which it came up that I was a Baylor University graduate. He told me that he had been heavily recruited by Baylor during his senior year of high school in 1969 to play football and that coach Grant Teaff had personally come to his home on a recruiting visit. My response was something to the effect that he must have been a tremendous high school athlete because coach Teaff didn't start coaching at Baylor until 1972. It was my first experience with how it's possible in prison to be downright delusional about your history.

Since then, I've had conversations with drummers better than Phil Collins and guitarists better than Jimi Hendrix and rappers better than some rapper whose name I can't remember. We have unlicensed theologians and chiropractors and a Hollywood movie producer. However one inmate, now released, shines far brighter than all others. 

Let's call him Bobby because I think tha...

April 24, 2017

We continue to have weekly bunk and locker inspections here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Heightened awareness of anything here typically means that the regional managers are coming to check some boxes on a Bureau of Prison's form. There have even been multiple sightings of the warden and camp administrator, so something is up; as the primary BoP institutional core value is to protect and serve thine own tushy at all costs.

This month, an inmate was caught coming back into the housing unit with a bag that included 5 bottles of alcohol, 10 cartons of cigarettes, a screwdriver, and assorted makeup. Yep, makeup. Apparently the screwdriver was to replace one that was lost. Missing tools are a major infraction that result in serious consequences. Each area has a tool clerk who checks out tools to those inmates needing them, so if one is lost the supervisor knows which inmate to blame. In this case, the tool clerk must have been asleep at the wheel. Some inmate will be the sacrificial la...

April 19, 2017

We've known since elementary school that we perceive our surroundings through 5 senses--sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Children can grow up to be strong and otherwise healthy without any 1 of 4 of these, but not the 5th--not without touch. Most of us have read about the tragic consequences of the overcrowded Romanian orphanages where the babies were never held or touched by their caregivers. A lack of human touch before age 2 leads to a multitude of emotional and physical illnesses, but the powerful effect of touching or not touching another human being is not limited to babies. I have some personal experience with just that.

It all began 41 months ago when I quit lying. I'd be naive to think that such an abrupt behavioral change would be without colossal negative implications. Since many of my lies and the actions lied about were serious and long term, the consequences were particularly disastrous. One of the obvious results of the lies was that I angered and disappointed some p...

April 14, 2017

One of the best books I read in 2016 was Patrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a former stand-up comic, now a Lutheran minister at House of All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. You can find her on Facebook or at her website. Sober since 1992, she's like the female, heavily tattooed fusion of Chris Rock with Martin Luther.

She has much to say about resurrection in the book. She writes, "The Christian faith...is really about death and resurrection. It's about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig for ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small."

Pastor Nadia calls Mary Magdalene "the patron saint of just showing up." Luke's gospel tells us that Jesus exorcised 7 demons from her. Once freed, she followed Jesus around, supporting his ministry with her own money. Luke doesn't mention how she earned it, and we probably don't want to know. Mary never quit showing up, even when circumstances appeared hopeless. She showed up at the cross with the few re...

April 9, 2017

In 2016, the Obama administration issued a directive that would phase out the use of privately run prisons. One company which runs these prisons is CoreCivic. The day after Donald Trump was elected President, its stock shot up 46%. Obviously, stock market investors knew what was in the mind of the new administration because one of Attorney General Jeff Session's first official acts was to cancel that directive. There is big money to be made in the prison industrial complex. Perhaps the easiest way is through the use of prison labor.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits slavery "except in punishment for a crime." This plays out practically in the way the Bureau of Prisons operates a program known as Federal Prison Industries. FPI hires inmates, paying them roughly 90 cents per hour to produce mattresses, eye glasses, body armor and, in the case of Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, to retrofit SUV's and ATV's for the Border Patrol, ICE, the National Park Service and other govern...

April 4, 2017

I've known Ken Massey since the early 1990's when he became my pastor. During those years, he and I, the then deacon chair, had the bright idea that our church, being Baptist (which many consider Christian), lacked a decent Biblical or practical reason to prohibit women from serving as deacons. Remember, that was the 90's and it was a Baptist church, so believe it or not, we were both sober at the time. In my case, it just seemed right. But for Ken, this gender shift in church policy took some courage, because, as pastor, he would face career and financial implications for including women in this traditionally male role. It wasn't easy, but remarkably we pulled it off, thanks to some good people at that church. It stuck too, because a few years later, after Ken had moved to North Carolina, that church called the first woman to pastor a Baptist church in the state of Texas. Lightning hasn't struck the church since.

In a spirit of pseudo-transparency, I should admit now that I used to pla...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones