Nine years ago today I walked into court with my wife of nineteen years on my arm. We were nervous but sure that we would be walking out together. We. were both wrong.
Nine years ago today my nightmare began and it was a journey that only got worse as it went. I lost the great loved of my life. She was my Goddess, my muse, and my passion, and despite all of the betrayal, I still miss her.
Prison is an adventure in losses. In the first year you lose the respect of your children, the love, loyalty and faithfulness of your spouse. Losing your freedom is only the beginning. It is also the one that hurts the least compared to your other loses.
It isn’t until your second year that you actually find out that your wife took a lover only a few weeks after your conviction. This is around the same time that you find out that she has given birth to a child that could not possibly be yours and you are served with child support papers and divorce papers in the same month.
The very last thing you finally lose is the one thing that is easiest to lose given the circumstances but it’s the one thing you need the most. I’m speaking of hope.
All of your aspirations of greatness, of creating an enduring positive legacy is gone. You are a fragile shell of a man. You need a hero in your life, somebody capable of sharing their greatness.
Nobody is born great. Sure some people may be born with expectations of doing great things during their life because of family history. Sometimes those expectations fall short of the dreams of those who raised or even created the person in question.
Perhaps greatness is not something your born with or even aspire to but is something different. Maybe it’s something that happens most unexpectedly by those who have the singular characteristic of being compassionate.
As I write this, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of being a lucky individual who was adopted 34 months ago through Adopt an inmate by Clare. Our relationship has its ups and downs as every relationship does. There are rare times that myself and Clare both struggle to keep the long distance relationship going. Running out of things to talk about in our emails is a real problem from time to time. I’ve found that by opening myself up, making myself vulnerable even to the point of making serious mistakes is the best way to have a lasting and honest friendship. Most of the time our friendship is just so easy and comfortable. It’s like being hugged by for the very first time every single time I receive a letter or email from her.
Having no expectations but keeping yourself open to the possibilities of a good friend I feel is the secret to being adopted and having that friendship last.
Clare has become a proxy for all of the people I lost. She reminds me that life continues even during the worst of times. She is just a caring person with a little extra time that she wishes to share that time with me.
With the millions stuck at home bored out of your skull ask yourself. Do you have the time, the compassion to be a light in the darkness of somebody’s nightmare. Then consider Adopt an inmate. You can’t binge watch The Office forever you know.
“We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”
With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes – among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.
They didn’t create a giveaway program. Read the article to find out how they improved the problem. Meanwhile, in LA where they have thrown more money at the problem without considering new ideas, homelessness has risen by 16%.
“The residents are seeing more encampments, more people sleeping on the sidewalks in dirty, unhealthy and heartbreaking conditions,” she said. “They are frustrated by this problem. We need to give people answers.”
Lynn pointed to two vulnerable groups as proof that resources work. Even though nearly 3,000 more veterans were reported homeless last year, there was no noticeable change in the number of homeless veterans on the street. Families experiencing homelessness grew by 8% with nearly 8,000 families being provided homes.
One of the largest increases, however, was among people 18 to 24 years old. Lynn said a 24% jump was partly the result of a change in the methodology of the count. But still, he said, “there was a significant increase, many more unsheltered. We were able to house more youth this year than last year, but this is an overflow population.”
Maybe Los Angeles and other cities should try what is being done in Helsinki, mercy.
Not proper grammar, to be sure, but this was the response I sent Melissa when I got the news. The feeling I had was one of pure elation. It was as close to having a religious experience as I have had in a decade – so much so, that my total outlook since that day has only been positive. I have learned to feel joy again, to embrace hope.
In this current climate, it seems that good news, real good news, just doesn’t happen that often. I asked myself why, pondered the possible answers, and then asked myself why not? When I was a free man the only person who was truly responsible for my happiness was me. Oh sure other people could influence me and my moods but in the end it was my choice to be happy or not happy.
In prison I am told what to eat, when to eat, when to work, when to sleep and even when to use the restroom. Yes, even when to urinate. Every aspect of my life is controlled. Many of those over me feel they are not doing their job if they ever see me or another inmate smile. Yet I smile.
Do you wish to create some good news in the world? I know I do. Here is how you, just one person, can change the world. Adopt an inmate. It’s simple, pain-free and a great way to prove that one person can change the world.
What adoption means is simply making a pledge, a commitment, to correspond with an inmate by snail mail or e-mail. You can give hope to someone who has lost faith in human compassion — to somebody who most likely has lost everyone they ever loved or cared about.
Everything about prison slowly strips your humanity away. Everything about prison teaches you not to trust anyone. It is a vicious cycle that turns men who made a mistake into career criminals and some men into worse. The average inmates I know developed an inferiority complex and began to resent society as a whole. We miss the real world so much that it turns into frustration and helplessness. All it takes to stop the trend is an angel with a few minutes to spare each month.
For many of us, it is as if time has stopped and we are trapped in a bubble. For me every day was February 12, 2012. I was broken until Mrs. C adopted me.
On April 7th, 2018, I received a polite, well-written e-mail from a complete stranger. It was short and to the point, but for me, a total stranger was treating me with respect. What? I had forgotten what it felt like to be treated like this. Mrs. C ended the e-mail with “All my best.” I was in shock. Later that day I received a second e-mail, and again Mrs. C was polite. She wrote me as if I were a long-lost friend who had merely lost contact with her, or so it felt. After I finally came out of shock, I was sure it was a mistake.
The following day I received an e-mail from Melissa from Adopt an Inmate, telling me I had been adopted by Mrs. C. It was after I reread that email for the fourth or fifth time that I realized the too-good-to-be-true woman who was treating me like a real person was true. GASP. It was not a mistake. I cried over the good news, then my clock started back up, it was no longer February 12, 2012.
I will forever be grateful to Mrs. C and dedicate this article to her. We e-mail back and forth a few times a week and I feel human again.
You want to change the world for someone? It can be done. It takes only a little effort. Mrs. C agreed to contact me once a month, but has gone beyond this. Thank you Mrs. C., for being a light in my darkness.
What adopting an inmate is not. It is not a dating service. It is not putting money on phone or commissary account or paying for a food box. You are not being asked to do anything more than treat a human humanely. You really can change the world by corresponding with one person.
You can talk about the weather, what famous movies were filmed near you, books, or trends. I suggest that politics and religion be avoided at all cost.
Inmates who get adopted should show respect for those who adopt them. Mrs. C is somebody I find witty and funny. I care not that she lives on the other side of the planet and I will never meet her.
A stranger has done for me what my family and friends would not.
I have once again realized that even in here, I am ultimately responsible for my own happiness. This is something my counselors have been saying for years. It took Mrs. C, her compassion, and her kindness for me to come to this conclusion on my own.
Thank you, Mrs. C., thank you, Melissa and everyone at Adopt an Inmate.
*Note: Boundless is correct, we ask for nothing beyond regular correspondence. We do have adopters who also choose to call and/or visit, put money on an inmate’s commissary account, send books or an occasional package. I have some adopters who send Christmas gifts to their adoptee’s children for Christmas or birthdays. All of these acts of kindness are appreciated, but not required.
We have a backlog right now, but with help from some dedicated volunteers we are working through the list, and continue to welcome all requests. If you’re one of the waiting adopters – expect to hear from us soon! Feel free to email us to see where you are on the list.
Convicts against the guards. When I first began my life within the prison industrial complex over 28 years ago, this maxim was a hard and fast reality. Since then, I have witnessed it fade into an often intangible concept – and I am grateful to see its decline.
The root of this antagonism is easy to identify. Prisoners feel anger towards a system gone awry, and resentment for their captors grow, as guards attempt to rule by force rather than be reason, imagining that having the ability to do something gives them the authority to do it.
The passion of resistance burns fiercely within me, and I can feel the heartbeat of this problem. But there comes a time when we have to put our resentments aside if we are to ever have any real hope of peace and happiness. My hope is that by sharing one simple concept I can broaden the perspective of those that still subscribe to the “us against them” philosophy.
We all want to go home on time. Prisoners and guards alike.
Prisoners all want to be released at the earliest date, and in turn, prison staff all wish to go home at the end of their shift. Fortunately, the modern prison experience provides many opportunities for staff and prisoners to have positive interaction, which allows us to see the humanity in ach other.
Going home on time is an ideal that we can extend far beyond the walls of prison. This common goal is present in every class of our society, and through its acknowledgement, we can develop an often missing sense of connection between both sides of this paradigm.
I know all too well that prison is an inherently negative environment, and as such, this message will fall on many deaf ears – for prisoners and guards alike. But for most of us, this concept will resonate, and I hope grow.
It is no longer us against them. Today, it is us and them – together. Striving for stronger and healthier communities. Through embracing this common goal, we can all move beyond the anger and pain, and find a place where we can heal.
I want to thank the staff and supporters of Adopt an Inmate for taking the time to care. I want all of you to know that the kindness and consideration that you offer is deeply appreciated.
On this day, which is almost nine years in the making, I wish to dedicate this AI blog post to Michael Henderson. Michael’s hearing is today (finally!) and I am in attendance (we are finally in the same room!).
I have known Michael for going on three years. The past two he has spent in the Pinellas County Jail, most of that time waiting on his Public Defender to show up. Very rarely did he put in an appearance, nor did he accomplish one single thing in 20 months to progress Michael’s case. With thanks to a benefactor, his paid attorneys have taken the bull by the horns and the hearing is finally taking place today, Friday, March 16.
In the time Michael and I have known each other, we have exchanged countless letters and emails (not to mention spent a small fortune on phone calls – you’re welcome GTL!). Though I am quite biased, Michael’s words are pure treasure. In honor of his big day, the purpose of this post is to share some of his words with you:
“I have been blessed with an understanding of the difference between what I need and what I think I need.”
“I can tell you, without reservation, that some of the best people I have met in my life have been here in prison. The stories behind each one are as varied as the individuals who live it.”
“If prison doesn’t teach you patience, tolerance, and humility, you probably aren’t teachable.”
“Keep strong in all you face, tempered with compassion, topped with love.”
“A slice of life only tastes really good when you share it with a friend; otherwise you keep eating humble pie.”
“I won’t claim to have all the answers, but I will ask the questions, and hopefully, that’s a starting point. As for my part, I pledge to have personal accountability and invite anyone to join me, whether you are in a prison or a palace, change starts with you.”
“No matter how long I’m in prison, I will not allow prison to reside in me.”
“It’s not rocket surgery.”
Please take a moment to send a blessing to whatever power you believe rules the universe for our incarcerated loved ones everywhere. And remember – do all things with Love.