Tuesday, April 28, 2020


 Dateline: Friday, April 24, 2020 8:57 a.m. Tomoka C. I.

We've had a line of thunderstorms, hard rain, and tornado warnings for Daytona Beach and much of Central Florida since late last night. Life goes on. We're waiting for the nurses to come through with their infrared thermometer guns to shoot our forehead temperatures. No one speaks it, but I can feel the tension, the men making nervous jokes, worried that they will register a fever and go into isolation. I can't help but think of the correlation between the nurse aiming the ''gun'' at each man's forehead, at point-blank range, and the image of mass execution. What is left unsaid is the realization that if COVID-19 gets loose and out of control in the prison system, mass deaths could ensue. Many pray that will not happen.

I'm proud of my fellow prisoners' behavior since this statewide quarantine went into effect. So far most everyone remains calm, unlike at prisons in other states and countries that have seen violence. I attribute this calm to the responsible leadership of Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch, whose unprecedented communications to prisoners statewide, via posted memos and the JPay tablets, have kept prisoners and families informed and encouraged. Offering free phone calls and emails have enabled prisoners to remain in touch with their loved ones. The ''not knowing'' is often the worst part. Just hearing a loved one's voice can boost one's spirits.

In Secretary Inch's most recent communique, he asked, ''What do you need from me? If I could give you anything within my authority as Secretary, what would you ask for?'' His point revolved around finding meaning and purpose in one's life, whoever or wherever you are.

In 42 years of continuous imprisonment, I have dedicated my life to helping others and becoming a better person. It has been a hard road, surviving this wrongful imprisonment, and at 70 years old, it doesn't get any easier. I have been blessed with the love and support of a wonderful wife and family, of old and new friends who've encouraged me, and the strong hope and faith that God has a plan for my life. Knowing that I am a political prisoner, held far beyond my time when many hundreds of others with life sentences have been living their lives in freedom for years, might depress the average prisoner, but it makes me only work harder.

In many of the dozens of different classes I've taught to literally thousands of prisoners over four decades, one assignment I've emphasized over and over again mirrors Secretary Inch's question: ''If someone walked into this room and told you, you have two minutes to convince me to sign your release papers and let you go home, what would you say?''

It is a very difficult question, one that dumbfounds many prisoners.

As for myself, in answer to Secretary Inch's similar question, I would ask for freedom, to be returned to my wife Libby and my remaining family, to answer the fervent prayers of my 90-year old mother, who has vowed to stay alive until she sees her eldest son released from prison.

And the fact is, that is an attainable goal, a recommendation by the FDC Secretary to the parole commission for a new, fair, impartial parole hearing, granting my well-deserved release. You have the authority, Secretary Inch.

Back to Tomoka and the pandemic.

The numbers are increasing. Wednesday: 47 prisoners tested positive for the coronavirus at Tomoka C. I. Thursday: 82 Today--this morning: 88 inmates positive, along with 12 staff. I reported our first fatality a few days ago: it was not virus-related, however. I asked a nurse, was it the virus? She said no, ''inmate-on-inmate violence.'' Terrible, to die in prison.

Please keep our nation and our world in your prayers. This virus plays no favorites, heeds no barriers or fences. I will continue to report from prison as long as I can.


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