Sunday, May 11, 2008


Dateline: April 19, 2008
Location: deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Most weekends, my friend, Libby Dobbin, drives 100 miles from Jacksonville to visit me in prison. It makes a tremendous difference in one's attitude and mental health to have people from "the street" care enough to brave the red tape of the prison gates to come inside and spend a few hours with you. I am especially fortunate that I have a core support group of people who have come inside in the past few months.

On the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, retired Episcopal priest, Father Bob Anderson, comes in to the chapel to visit with five or six of us and to conduct Communion Service. Father Bob was in the USMC in Vietnam, flew F4 Phantoms, and is a cancer survivor. He is a good man who feels it's his Christian duty to come in here, and he has done so as a Kairos volunteer for many years.

My friend, Marlin Johnson, from Savannah and L.A., a.k.a. "Big Mo," has driven down twice to visit in the past year. We were in prison together at Zephyrhills from 1983 to 1987. I was there when God changed his life, and now that he has been free for years, the father of triplet boys, he tries to help me.

Bob Cole, the famous gambler who Robert Redford portrayed in the movie, "The Sting," came here April 11th with a prison ministry group, along with another group of Christians who visit prisons across the country.

My lawyer, Gary Smigiel, got his entire family - wife, Marcella, son, George, daughters, Angelina, Adriana, and Daniela, added to my visiting list, so they could all come in together. What a blessing that is!

Paul Flory, head of the Bill Glass Prison Ministry in Orlando, came March 14th, hadn't seen him since 19999, and it was a real pleasure.

When they "count" at 11:30 A.M. each Saturday and Sunday, it's usually around 50 or 60 prisoners lined up, with perhaps 100 visitors, wives, children, girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters, a few friends. But every week it's mostly the same prisoners and the same family members. With 1200 prisoners in one camp, that's barely 5% of the inmate population with people who care about them enough to visit. 95% of the prisoners don't have anyone to visit, for various reasons, economic, can't afford the gas expense, too far to travel, or there are hard feelings, or they just don't care anymore.

These are the forgotten ones. Most of them will be returning to a neighborhood or a bridge near you some day, sooner or later, and it would be better for everyone if these fellows had a support group of family and/or friends who could ease their transition to a free society. Think about it.

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