One of the cooks on my shift was a very large guy who was looking for a workout partner. My routine had been pretty intermittent up to this point. It seemed as if what he was doing was working for him, so I told him that I would work out with him.
Since we worked shift work, most of the time the gym was pretty empty during the day. It was much easier to work out with a partner. This ended up being a good relationship. Our routine was a three day on, one day off schedule. Having access to whatever we wanted to eat was very beneficial. It was surprising how quickly I began to bulk up.
Besides the fact that I was getting bigger, I also noticed that I just felt better. Being in better shape helped with my mental health as well. It also helped that my family came to visit me fairly regularly. They could tell that things were different for me out here. They would also comment on how healthy I looked and sounded.
The change in custody was such a good thing for me, and it showed. From an outsiders view, it seemed as if I had everything going for me. Just like right before I got arrested. It seemed as if everything was fine but I was hiding the mess that was my life.
Even though I was doing better since the move, there still was something missing from my life. There was an emptiness inside that couldn’t be filled.
Conversations with other Trustees were fine, but I wasn’t planning on maintaining these relationships when I got out.
Visits from my family were nice, but they always had to leave.
Workouts were good for me, but I didn’t love them.
Letters seemed to be the one thing that elevated my spirits. The problem was that they were becoming less frequent and intermittent. Most of us were lonely and wanted to connect with people on the outside. Especially people that were more like who we were before we came to prison.
As humans we all need community, to feel understood, to be noticed and mostly loved. So it was relationship that I was craving. If we seek it out, we will find it. If we are desperate, we will also find it, but it is usually not the relationship we really need.
This drove me to seek out conversations with others.
It was against prison rules to solicit pen pals. It probably had to do with the predatory nature of some inmates. However, it seemed as if I found a way around this rule. On some occasions I would write poetry, if you wanted to call it that. Then I would submit it to some independent press magazines or zines. By independent press, this could mean that it was a sheet of paper Xeroxed off and mailed out to whoever would send a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
If someone published my stuff or commented back to me about it, then I would write them a letter thanking them. After that the communication would continue. The mail room still looked through all our mail, so I had to be careful what I said in the letters and just hope that the recipient would not mention that we had never met or that this was our first communication. It seemed as if I had about six or seven new friends through this method.
Unfortunately, one of the letters that I received had some small unauthorized trinket enclosed. Once the mail room investigated further, it was clear that this was not someone I knew. The next thing I knew, I was being charged with breaking this policy and was summoned to a Disciplinary and Action Board. This was not good.
What was going through my mind was a statement I heard on my first day at the LPU. The Desk Sergeant told me that, “if I screwed up, I would be going back inside the walls to start all over again from the bottom up.” My intention wasn’t to push the boundaries that had been set for me. It was just a desire to feel like myself again. To be able to share parts of me with people that would understand. Thoughts and emotions that I didn’t feel safe sharing with inmates.
All the hard work I put into getting out here was at stake now. All for a connection to the outside world. Desperately chasing after relationship.
Man, did I feel so stupid.
After I reported to the Commander of the LPU, I was asked a few questions by him and the Non Commissioned Officer in Charge. They asked me if I knew the policy on soliciting pen pals. After I answered, “Yes, Sir,” they asked me to explain why I was having this disciplinary board.
Telling them about the poetry and the subscriptions to the zines, I explained that I replied back to people if they contacted me first and that seemed to satisfy the Board. They felt that it was not a complete disregard for the rule. But they also thought that I still deserved some disciplinary action. They told me I could stay at the LPU but that I would have to serve fourteen days of extra duty to begin immediately.
What a relief it was to hear that I didn’t have to go back inside the walls.
Thanking them, I left the office and reported to the Desk Sergeant for my extra duty shift. For the following two weeks, right after my shift at the mess hall, I had to report in to receive my daily assignment. For around four hours, I would clean the administrative offices. The tasks were, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and vacuuming. This was not fun, however the alternative would have been devastatingly worse.
I had earned an escape from the confines of the Disciplinary Barracks and was moving towards a healthy and successful exit from inmate life. Returning back would have been like jumping into the hole that I just climbed out of. This new version of myself may have been completely lost to the darkness that accompanies living in there.
From that day forward, I made a decision to pay closer attention to the rules and regulations.
It seems that even though we know the difference between right and wrong, we often choose to bend or break the rules.
Even the rules themselves tend to lead to bad choices.
We tend to seek out temporary, feel good things instead of everlasting love.
Because we are broken messed up people, we take our eyes off Him, we become selfish.
Thank God, we know with Jesus it’s not about the rules and regulations. It’s about a relationship with Him.
Romans 10:4 NLT For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Romans 6:14 NLT Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
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