I remember vividly one of my elementary school teachers telling us two important things, apparently to her, and now to me, which has proven so very true:
- Do not use drugs, and
- If you get arrested your record will be bad and will affect you the rest of your life.
When such things are told to children, and I was about eight years old, you hear but you really do not understand, at least, for us children back in 1964. Then, had never seen a drug, although heroin was a major problem, no one I knew was affected by it. Cocaine was something I would not hear about for many years and not actually see for another thirty years.
But what is a record? And life? Rest of my life? You hear but you cannot connect these events. They have no bearing or relative importance, but they most definitely do today. Thank you, Miss Third Grade Teacher for your advice, but I did not understand enough to prevent them for coming true in my life.
This is the reason why I had to add this chapter because my record, which now has affected my life, has become so confusing due to my history with drugs. Even the Department of Probation could not get it right delaying my sentencing until March 5th. And it is no coincidence my first major court decision came on the same date in 1998, when sentenced to do the last 30 days of a six month bid in a state facility. I just hope the outcome is better.
The Pre-Sentence Report, at first, did not have any details from my criminal activity in Pennsylvania and I challenged the accuracy of the information from Cleveland. When the Cleveland error was corrected, the Pennsylvania information had me serving 23 months and I was only in their jail for four days! So, my attorney in wanting to protect me and ensure I was placed in the proper category sent a motion requesting a delay until it could be ascertained what exactly occurred in the past. The actual effect it would have on me regarding sentencing would be a mere three months, but it was important to me.
I took this time to mean something else in the bigger scheme of things and sought God’s intent for me. What more did I need to do? Am I overlooking something? Is there anything I’m not quite finished with? Is there a need to review or make further preparations? The answer came, in a book I found, not in the chapel where it should have been but on the library cart they cycle every three months. It was entitled, “Houses for Healing—A Prisoner’s Guide for Healing and Inner Power” by Robin Casarjian. Again, I would have to state without any doubt God put these materials in front of me, one by one, in succession I could not have chosen for myself. This book dealt directly with those incarcerated and provided thoughts, steps to follow to help see prisons are and can be a gift from God. I believe I already came to this very conclusion months ago but it is nice when something is confirmed within your spirit. It made me thankful for the additional time and consideration of other areas of my life in a deeper and practical method.
This time would be given for extra consideration regarding why I was here, and to go over areas like sexual and drug sins, which I now had one and a half years of sobriety or transformation. A record for both! Even at Teen Challenge, ten years ago, I did not abstain from the sin of masturbation albeit no opportunities for exhibitionism, and of course as shared previously, upon graduation I used drugs my first weekend pass away from the site after twelve months of not using, so I knew this was a miracle I was experiencing today.
I needed to give some thinking to my relationship with Mayra and my plan upon leaving here. So during this time, I began to focus where I would be headed and acknowledged my time in Puerto Rico was coming to an end. To be honest, I wavered between Baltimore and Miami, the latter because the warmer climate had my interest although I thought Baltimore in terms of finding housing and employment, but it is certain I did not want to return anywhere I had been. I was homesick for New York and after following the weather report during this winter I quickly got over any thought of returning much less visiting.
I had more time to consider my case. My attorney, who I believe was a blessing from God, sent me a package with all the remaining motions she filed as well as a letter informing me she was very late in her pregnancy and would be referring me to someone in the office. I wrote her a nice letter thanking her and sharing we were divinely put together and she should consider it and I would pray for her and her unborn child and because of this case, her motherhood should be the one case she should invest more time in and be certain to win. I wished her well.
The one issue I had with the whole process is continuity. Let me explain. In a case, I am being accused by the Government. My attorney answers the accusations, and all this is done in front of a Judge via personal conferences, telephone calls and motions. Never does the Judge, in my case since we did not go to trial, is ever given my version of the facts as they happen. He is only given our defense against the accusations. The more I thought about it the more I believed I needed to give the Judge a full accountability of my actions as they occurred regardless of the circumstances. My attorney wanted to shield me from my past sexual misconduct record and the psychological evaluation being introduced and I believed it needed to be introduced because it shows a pre-condition of an established behavior pattern. The Government wanted to use it to establish “bad acts” theory I’m capable of this type of crime. Who’s to say they aren’t right and I’m not right in either way? Certainly not a Judge with limited sight into the scope of my particular case, thus, I took it upon myself to write out my account to fill whatever gaps might be left open.
One of the struggles I had since being brought here is how I want the officials to see me and treat me accordingly. Men are most cruel to each other when classifications have been determined (Note: I would have first-hand experience in this area when released and had to register as a Sexual Offender and classified as a Level III.) and I have refused, from the beginning, to let any man, whether inmate or correctional officer, tell me what to do. I did not come here to clean, wash or construct this facility. I came here to clean, wash and construct a better life in the blood of Christ. So, for those who need a purpose or something to do, it is good, and then to have them assigned various tasks to occupy their mind and time. I have to admit I have not been good in completing most things: career, education, marriage(s), purchases on credit, etc., but that was not going to be said of me and my experience here. I dedicated this time, whatever it might be, to the furtherance of God’s work of answering that prayer of September 3, 2002, and July 4, 1993 of “save me”. This time I will not be distracted and will complete this effort. Many times I considered going to “The Hole” to be removed from the bureaucracy of the general population, but there I could not have the simple comfort of having an ink pen to do a major portion of my time in writing. In writing this book, first I could not imagine doing so without a computer, or a typewriter, never mind without a pen and only pencil! I am reminded of those before me and what they went through to write their “gospels”, in dungeons and without our modern conveniences, but I have seen a better way and therefore determined not to put myself in jeopardy of not completing this task. Many times I had to confront the administration’s challenge to wax a floor or paint a wall or door and informing them I am not a ‘sentenced inmate’ but a detainee who has come here with a purpose and would rather be left alone to complete it. I was extended the time to do so. Even though I pled guilty, I did not inform the administration and if found guilty, would still not. They would have to find out on their own and I’m sure there are certain of them just waiting to see what I will do if that time ever came. Until then, I chose to eat in my room, not be involved in anything outside the door of my cell even foregoing my usual watching of CNN for fifteen minutes in the morning. Others here made certain I got the newspaper, and that was fine by me.
I had occasion to hear from a loved ones who’s children were going astray, one having a legal battle himself after being found in possession of a large amount of an illegal substance and another not knowing how to come home in several days, another involved in questionable activity and drugs and another pregnant for their fourth time, and another wanting to leave wife and children. Each one I spent writing heart-felt letters, letting them know I loved them and wanted them to have more than what I had and use my example preventing them from making further problems. I then wrote letters to their parents, encouraging them to remain strong through this testing time and not to lose sight of the goal. Not just young people and their problems, but I learned an aunt was diagnosed with cancer and wrote her an encouraging letter as well. (Note: My Aunt Nora went to her final rest June 20, 2006. I never got a chance to hear from her again. I understood she went into a coma and left peacefully. I look forward meeting her again and am living my life in such a way it will be a certain reunion.) When I consider my own circumstances versus those on the outside, mine paled in comparison.
After eleven months of living alone, Jason popped his head in and announced he was going to be my roommate! At first, I resisted this intrusion in my life, but because of overcrowded conditions accepted him in if for no other reason he was bilingual. Twenty-one years old, born in New Jersey but raised since an infant in Puerto Rico, arrested with ten others, including his girlfriend, who was directly overhead in the women’s unit, for conspiracy to purchase and sell a large quantity of cocaine. His goal was getting into a room where he could talk freely with her over the “toilet-phone” at night. When he learned this was not possible, nor able to smoke in the room, nor keep up a lot of noise, he became disappointed. Because of the shortness of my possible time, he decided to stick it out since we were at capacity, 140 men.
I allowed God to use Jason to learn additional things about myself. How to have patience with others who were nothing like me and look for those common points. We both want and deserve love, compassion, attention and respect. I realized I do not like living with anyone and this further enforced my decision to remain single helped to sort my feelings regarding any future marital possibilities.
In the end, because his girlfriend arranged for bail and would be leaving and Jason deciding to sign a plea which ultimately would have him stateside for several years without the benefit of seeing her or their new-born daughter, I agreed to let him talk with her, one night, on the toilet-phone. He interpreted her gratitude to me for allowing it, her wishing me God’s blessings, and referring me to Psalms 91. I wish Yahaira well.
I believe those questions put to me:
Why are you here?
Where are you?
Who am I?
Were all to be considered until God asked me, what I now believe, will be the last one during my stay here and it is,
“What do you want?”
What do you want? Ask yourself this question and for a minute you will see it is not an easy question to answer. The question is not what do you need, because we’re promised God will fulfill our needs, but what do you want besides? This question, I found, is to be taken seriously because it is to be an accordance with God’s will. I may want an executive position, but is it in His will, for me, at this stage of my life? The same with a wife, house, car, etc. Are my wants in align with God’s purpose for my newly transformed life today? What I wanted yesterday is not the same as before.
What do I want?
I want what God wants for me. More specifically, I want to be saved and have eternal life. I want to not live the life I lived in drugs and sexual misconduct. I want to live a life of relative comfort now that I know how to deal with conflict and disappointment. I want to be a nice person and not be involved in the hurting of others, to be involved in ministry, some way being useful in pointing those who I come in contact to God. In dealing with Jason, the one point which became clear was to have people learn by example and not by words. People are more receptive seeing your life in practice instead of you directing them by words. It is why one of my prayer requests is: Help me to take advantage of knowing when to be quiet. Recognizing problems, discomforts and frustrations are temporary and do not warrant permanent resolves, prematurely.
What do I want? In the most simple and basic words possible…to be saved.
God helped me to see another reasoning which came into focus. If you are sick, you do what that sickness requires and you have just cause to explain the sickness away as being you are “sick”. However, when your life has changed and God’s Spirit has healed and you are transformed, you should not continue living the life of a sick person. How can you? What justification is there? It is why Jesus said on many occasions, “Go but sin no more.” Not that the person would not sin, again, ever, but just not have the reason to sin that particular sin again. I know God has healed me and has forgiven me for my particular sins of masturbation, exhibitionism, voyeurism and drugs, and when I am at liberty to come and go upon my release, I do not have reason or justification of those sins ever again. He, Jesus, warned those He healed with this admonition: “Or something worse may happen” is a condition. You do not have to sin as you have before. Now it is time to make way for other sins to appear in your life which are lying just beneath the surface but were overshadowed by the more demanding, and realistically, more exciting ones but more damaging, too.
God promised me if I would not masturbate when I entered this place He would show me things I could not see if I did. I now know what He means. All of my sins, those grievous ones which brought me here were all sexually based. Every single sin, and each one was fueled by my thoughts, lustful thoughts. Nothing good can possibly come from them. They would grow and develop just as you nurture a plant until it blossoms into full bloom and continue growing and reaching for other areas of deep depravity. Those I have dealt with might be bad but they lead into something worse, and according to Scripture, the end result is death. I can see this today, therefore, there is no excuse for me to live that life again—EVER. And should I, I only have death left to experience! Grave thinking? Good. Not thinking is being in the grave. Simply, I can no longer live as a sick man, if I believe and confess I have been healed. Like my friend Bro. Hugh from my Teen Challenge days used to say,
“There are no more last runs to make. If you were really that bad, you’d still be out there. But the fact you are here meant life beat you up and you couldn’t take it anymore.” And in the words of Pastor Ponton, Director of Hosanna Ministries,
“Come on in, you just made it!”
It is true as I sit here and think that we, I, am not being punished for all the times I went out to purchase and use drugs. For all the times I exposed myself to someone unsuspecting. All the times I encouraged the participation of others to join me in my sin, which is the most heinous I could have done to someone else. The times I’ve stolen, trespassed, etc., what has been the sentence for those things? Certainly if given time, even the misdemeanors and add them up, it would have been life. Consider each count of indecent exposure, actual sightings could number 36,000. Given a month sentence for each criminal act is 3,000 years! In comparison I served less than an afternoon. Each drug episode, I served no time. We, no, I, have had it good. Can I not see the mercy and grace of God on my behalf? Can I not understand Christ has paid it all for me? Then why must I pay anything other than giving Him my allegiance? It is over. It is finished. Those things are of the past. Leave them there.
Though, we often go through steps, each one being just a little longer than the one before it, God will gets us to where we need to be. This has been my life. One afternoon in prison led to ten days which led to six months which has led to this time, currently eighteen months. I understand today what God was trying to get me to understand in that one afternoon. It did not have to come to this. Oh, if I truly saw it then, but like my third grade teacher’s message, I had nothing to compare it, no point of reference. The next time I am contemplating trouble, I will not think about the consequence of how long I may have to be imprisoned again, no, there’s no fear of prison, but what I will think about is the first afternoon. That’s where it all started and rightfully where it should all end. Am I willing to spend another afternoon being incarcerated? No, I am not. Never mind more than eighteen months. Never, ever, be comfortable with the thought of being able to do time. That’s what makes it easy for inmates to keep coming back. I don’t want to do even an afternoon. Not me.
I also learned, in this last bit of time, something very important and let me boldly speak on behalf of God,
“Why must I be the one who always sacrifice? Did not I do enough the one time?”
In other words, we, I, put off what I know I need to do. “I’ll read that Scripture later”, or “God doesn’t mind if I do this another time”, or “I’ll pray after I do this”, or “One more of what I’m doing before I do what He wants”, or “Next Sabbath I will…” Stop it! Put God first. I wanted to do some other reading and play cards instead of finishing this chapter today, figuring I could write this afternoon, and still have Wednesday and Thursday to write before my case on Friday. It took only one hand of cards and not even picking up my other book, a James Bond story, to sit and make the decision to put God first. When I wrote how I had to take a stand whenever approached by the administration, just at this very time, I had to do it again! I was just asked to do something which amount to being a distraction—literally. The devil is alive and well and looking. So, maybe I will end up in “The Hole” before the week is finished, so let’s finish this since the other remaining two chapters are to be written after Friday. (Note: It was first thought the book would end when I finished my time in this place.) The message: put God first. He deserves it and even more, He wants it. Wouldn’t you if you were He?
Yes, I do have hope for the future today. It has taken this long for me to reach this point, but I do have hope for the future—now. I cannot tell you exactly what or where, but I am trusting Him to make it all happen. He’s promised to do so.
I do not know what will be the verdict come Friday, but I no longer have any fear. God has been in charge of this adventure since from the very beginning. It has nothing to do, ever, with my faithfulness or lack thereof. I cannot cause God to do anything that is not for my best interest. I cannot sway Him with acts. Only by my faith and willingness to live the life He already knows about. I just need to experience it.