It felt as if God was drawing me in to, be more connected with him. On the other hand, it seemed as if there were also a lot of distractions that attempted to derail me.
Even though I did not care for the Chapel too much, I kept going. Sometimes the sermons were good and other times not so much. Instead of focusing on my relationship with God, I was looking for the services I attended to cater to my spiritual needs. Sunday Christian. Where I got the idea, that I had the right to critique the style of worship or the sermons that were prepared for us by the Chaplains, I’m not sure.
During the week what I thought were Bible studies, actually turned out to be a half hour lunch time sermon from some of the Christian Cadre. Each day of the week a different guard would preach. I liked these sermons better than the Sunday Chapel. These guys seemed more genuine and really connected with us inmates because they were in our midst everyday.
There were free Bible correspondence courses that you could send off for and so I did. They came from a Bible College in Iowa through an organization called Set Free Prison Ministries based in Kansas. It was kind of a look up scriptures in your Bible and answer the questions type thing. Two correspondence booklets and tests came for me to complete. They also sent me a book to read called “Twice Pardoned”. This book was very well known in confinement facilities. It was about a guy who was falsely accused and sentenced to two life sentences. He finds Christ and eventually gets released. Also they sent me a subscription to “Our Daily Bread” devotionals.
Many of the inmates that were members of other denominations or religions would want to have these long drawn out debates about who was right and who was wrong. Most of the time the discussions were civil. Other times they could get pretty heated. In the end, it never seemed like anyone actually budged from their point of view. I tried to not get caught up in these debates but every once in awhile, I would get drawn in.
Some of the African-American inmates would convert to Islam. They even had a program in which they could legally change their given name to a Muslim one. To them their given name was one that was passed down by slave owners and Christians. Changing one’s name was like a cleansing from this. One day I would be talking to John Smith and the next day the same guy would be Malik Shabaaz Mohammed. It was a pretty common occurrence. It was hard to make the mental switch sometimes and these guys would get pretty upset if you used their old name.
My friend Weeks had to have some sort of surgical procedure done on his nose. It couldn’t be done at Ft. Leavenworth and so he was escorted to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Colorado. Because he was gone, I took some time off from lifting weights. Didn’t really want to find a new workout partner. When he returned, we jumped right back into it. During a conversation, I mentioned to him that I was running out of people that could afford for me to make collect calls to. He said that he might have a solution for me but that I couldn’t share it with anyone. It was at this moment that I realized that Weeks actually trusted me.
Weeks said that when using the wing phone booths, dial zero. When the operator answers, I was to tell her that I was having trouble making the connection and if she could put me through. Then I would give her a number and she would make the connection. The long distance call would then be charged to the phone booth. Seemed simple enough and so the first chance I got, I tried it. Feeling very nervous and beginning to sweat, I dialed zero. The operator answered immediately and so I said what Weeks told me to say. She said to hang on a moment while she put me through. To my surprise, it worked. This was great, I could call whomever I wanted to.
Shortly after my first “free” call, I noticed that the phone booth lines were getting longer each day. There must have been more inmates that knew about the loophole. Eventually there was an investigation. All of the people that I had been calling, I told to say that they didn’t know anyone in Kansas and they didn’t know who called. Several inmates got busted and charged with larceny. They never approached me about it. Weeks wasn’t caught either.
A few inmates figured out how to make a tattoo gun out of an electric shaver. Weeks had been doing the artwork for the guy doing the tattoos. This practice was prohibited. If caught you would be charged with damage to government property. Weeks got a tip that his and a few other’s cells were going to be searched because they had been snitched on. He asked me to keep the artwork in my cell. After the phone booth scare, this request made me nervous. Since we worked out together, I thought my cell could be targeted as well. He said he understood and either found someone else to keep them or destroyed them. I will never know if this was a setup or not, but I’m glad I never found out.
We were not allowed to borrow other inmates stuff. Everything was marked with our reg number. One evening, I was loitering on the other side of 6 Tier because I was returning some magazines to someone. As I handed the magazines to the other inmate, I noticed a guard coming around from the back side of the tier. He saw me hand the magazines and started to quickly head my way. Thinking that he didn’t see my face, I ran as fast as I could back around the stairwell to the other side of the tier. Making it to my own cell before he rounded the stairwell, I dove into my bunk and pretended to be asleep. The guard never figured out who I was. Disciplinary and Action Board averted.
On my days off, I would sometime sleep in. The shift work was exhausting. David Dollar was an inmate that worked with me in the dining facility. Sometimes he would come into my cell and wake me up. This was very annoying because I needed the sleep. Telling him to knock it off did not work. He was relentless. I warned him not to wake me up any more. Other times, as I would be sitting on the toilet and as he would walk by and manually shut my cell door. Because I was on the toilet, I could not jump up and grab the door before it slammed shut. He would laugh and then leave me stuck in my cell. The doors would not slide open again until after the next headcount. This infuriated me. Being locked in a cell when you didn’t have to be was maddening.
He knew that I couldn’t really do anything because we would both go to the hole. Even though I warned him not to mess with me anymore, he was relentless. While passed out on my bunk, I felt someone shaking me and saying “Mike, Mike, wake up, I’m bored.” In a half stupor, but full fury, I leaped out of my bunk. Reaching out to my desk, I grabbed a pencil and jabbed it directly into Dollar’s gut. He made a weird noise and looked down in disbelief at his stomach. As he lifted his shirt up a small hole was visible, with a little blood beginning to drip out of it. He said, “You stabbed me.” His eyes shifted to the pencil I was gripping and then he bolted off to his own cell. Luckily for him, I wrote a lot and the pencil was short. Even so, this was not good.
He did not turn me in, and he never bothered me again.
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