Don’t React – Respond! 

Don’t React – Respond! 

This past week came with one of the biggest shocks of my fifteen years of incarceration. My unit (‘incentive housing’ with extra privileges for those of us who have exhibited at least 18 months of clear conduct) was inspected by the administration. We had been duly warned not to have any extra clothing or bedding when they come lest we be removed to another unit immediately. Such a move would force us to give up all of our luxuries such as all-day phone access, microwaves, access to hot water to heat up canteen food items, soda vending machine, etc. I’ve completed all 15 of my years of incarceration without receiving a single write-up. In other words, I know how to follow the rules, so when they warned us, I was already in compliance.

They came last Thursday, as promised, and began tossing extra clothing from people’s cells. I knew all those in violation would be removed from the unit. I’m thinking, “Why would they still have extra clothing?! They knew they were coming!” Then they got to my cell and tossed out a sheet, “Oh no,” I thought. “They got my cellie’s extra sheet at the base of his bunk” (he’s on the bottom). At that point I was worried I would lose my cellie and be forced to play the “cellie lottery” where we have no idea who they’re going to put in our cells. After all the dust settled, they moved 40 guys that very night!

The next day we all knew it still wasn’t over because we’d heard they were coming to move 11-20 more! I thought this was strange because why would there be a question as to how many would be moving? If you’re in violation, you’re in violation. 

I came back from work at 10:00 am and asked the officer to pop my door. He said, with a list in his hand, “Are you A or B bunk?” I started worrying about my cellie, but I answered, “I’m A bunk.” He delivered the devastating blow: “You’re moving!” Shocked, incredulous, and staggered, I responded, “What? How? I didn’t even do anything. They took nothing from me.” He gave the typical contrived response most do in that situation: “I’m just doing what I’m instructed per the captain. I need you to start packing.”

Deflated and dejected, I packed and headed to another unit for the first time in the five years I’ve been here. No one cared to hear my claim of being innocent of this infraction. The administration needed ‘examples’ to send their message that they would no longer tolerate rule breakers, so anyone would do. All attempts made by my now former cellie to set the record straight by taking ownership for the confiscated sheet were met with apathy. A meeting was held by the administration, and a 90-day ban for returning to the unit was implemented for all 56 of us who were banished – guilty or not.

Needless to say, it’s been a huge adjustment for me. Everything from when I can use the phone, get hot water to cook, to even when I can get a shower, has changed. Through this ordeal I have felt wronged, indignant, and helpless. But after the initial shock and adjustment took hold, my true character, mettle, and resiliency kicked in.

In considering what has happened to me and putting it into its proper perspective, I accept it as something I have no control over. In doing that, I choose to not allow it to consume my thoughts or drain my energy. Instead, I consider it an opportunity to test my ability to adapt to and handle unexpected adversity well and appropriately. How often do we blow up, make rash decisions, and create mountains out of mole hills when sudden hardships afflict us? Then we reflect on it later and inevitably regret reacting the way we did. Too late.

Another aspect I have considered is that this is preparing me for my eventual release. Things will happen in life that I have no control over, but how will I cope when they do? If I can’t handle being moved to an uncomfortable unit in prison, I am in for a world of hurt when I get out because so much more can and will happen that will upset me. This is a mini-test, and after a week now to reflect, ponder, and respond, I feel I would earn a solid B from my instructor.

The moral of this short illustration is, we always have a choice in how we respond to life’s unexpected challenges. If we only focus only on the undesirable aspects in front of us, we miss the hidden opportunities to use them for growth in character, and resiliency that can only help us better face other life challenges that will surely come. The goal is, therefore, not to react to negative life challenges but to respond. Responding requires a change in how we view these circumstances in the first place, seeing them as opportunities rather than obstacles.

Michael’s Day in Court

Michael’s Day in Court

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.

Leah a.k.a. Dove

 

Donation: Handmade Afghan for AI

Donation: Handmade Afghan for AI

We received this handmade afghan from our friend Charles Farrar, an innocent man serving a 145-to-life sentence, based on lies told by the alleged victim (his step-daughter), who has since recanted her story (over thirteen years ago). See the full story here.

Charles has been in the Sterling Correctional Facility in Colorado since April 1st, 2002. Tomorrow marks the beginning of his fourteenth year in prison.

You can sign a petition to grant Charles a new trial here.

cfarrar ai afghan

Justice For Charles Farrar Website

Write to Charles:

Charles Farrar 113856 S-C-F
Unit 1-C
PO Box 6000

Sterling, CO 80751

Letters From Angels: A Mother’s Tears

 

First in our new series, Letters From Angels, which is a companion to our Letters From Prison series. This was written by a mother whose son was wrongfully convicted.

sad-angel

AJ, I picked myself a flower today,
and said they were from you.
Because if you were here with me,
I know its what you would do.
As you walk alone to your dorm,
I walk alone to my car.
I leave a piece of my heart there with you
and take a piece of yours.
I cry my silent tears that only God can see,
until the day that I can bring your whole heart home with me.