Monday, June 8, 2020


Sunday, June 7, 2029, 6:53 p.m., Tomoka C.I., Daytona Beach, FL.

Who would believe that so many odd things would occur in prison, so often? This is nothing compared to worse places, but in here, little things can have big effects. Tuesday I told you about the guards moving out everyone in dorm K-1, scattering them across the compound. I joined a dozen or so moved to dorms J-1 and J-2, and in the confusion, I lost two bags of property, one a recently-purchased mesh bag of canteen food items. That hurt, along with the other stolen property. There were a couple hundred prisoners moving on the compound, and anyone could have watched the guards walk off, and made a move. Write that one off.

I got settled in dorm J-2, and was going to write this update then, tell you about the improved location, the south end next to the large rec field, the clear views of trees outside the perimeter fences, large barred windows to the east and west, sunrise/sunset visible, and the unobstructed view south, toward the Cape and the space launches, which are inspiringly visible on clear days.

I was going to tell you about the birds, the pair of sandhill cranes that seem to have followed me from the north end to the south end, probing with their long sharp beaks the grassy area beside J-2, how they stood three feet away from the sidewalk at breakfast, by the chow hall, breaking up a hard cold biscuit someone had smuggled out and dropped, pecking it into smaller pieces, quickly chowing down, very similar to how many prisoners wolf down their food.

I was also going to tell you the latest about my Bible-reading neighbor, ''Ant Man,'' who I've talked about. It seems that a number of people are interested in Ant Man's fate, so I will try to fill in the latest happenings.

There don't appear to be any ant infestations in J dorm, so Ant Man may need a new name. We both moved to J-2, but his new bunk is a couple bunks farther down the row from mine, making it more difficult for him to get a definition or explanation of a Bible verse. His neighbors on either side appear to be thugs, not Bible scholars, so that's a dead end.

The next day it rained hard. I was coming back to J-2 from lunch---three p.m.---very late due to the repeated recounts. I think these people count worse than those Iowa Democratic caucus vote counters. Approaching the dorm, the grumpy old sergeant told me, ''Norman, you got five minutes to pack up and move to C dorm.''

C dorm? That's the kitchen workers dorm. Were they retaliating against me for some reason?

I told him, ''No way can I pack up in five minutes. I need help carrying my property, anyway. Are you sure it's C dorm?''

''See the dorm officer. She'll tell you where you're moving.''

"Why am I moving? I just moved in yesterday.'' He shrugged. I did not want to move to the kitchen dorm. All the stolen food in C dorm meant huge infestations of ants, roaches, and other vermin attracted there.

The female dorm officer cleared up the confusion. Back to K-2. where I started at. Now I had to pack up. Ant Man and the neighboring thugs offered their services. The north end is separated from the south end by fences and gates--human rat mazes--and many thugs would volunteer to carry property just to get to visit with their buddies for a few minutes. Where were you guys when I needed you the other day?

You can make and lose friends in prison overnight. You can also have friends become like brothers for decades. I felt sorry for Ant Man, a new friend, who looked bereft at my moving out. We were all walking slowly toward K-dorm in the drizzling rain.

"Why you moving, Norman?''

"We all go where they tell us, Donnell.'' (his first name.) I have no choice.''

''I'm real sorry to see you go.''

''Me too. This is a much better dorm than K-2, except for the guards.''

''Yeah. Let me ask you--I've been thinking about what you said, about getting deeper into the Bible, studying those--what do you call them--I forget, what Jesus did, telling stories, that told simple things to the common people, and deeper things for his followers?''

''Parables, stories that had multiple layers of meaning to different people.''

''That's right. I was thinking, I got a year left before I get out. I don't want to keep coming back to prison. I've chased cocaine for 30 years. What do you think about me signing up for the faith-based program?''

The faith--based program is not just a program for Christians, but for all believers and nonbelievers. Seventy or so men live in F-1 dorm and participate in structured studies aimed at improving one's spiritual life. I can tell you most anything you want to know about the faith-based program, since I wrote the original proposal in 1982, at Union C. I. after completing the Kairos Program. Kairos executive director John Caldwell was delighted with the concept, a 24/7 live-in program modelled after the GOLAB Growth Community. They'd talked about a spiritual prison housing area, but no one ever put something down on paper. Seventeen years later, the first Horizon faith-based program finally began at Tomoka C. I., then spread across the state.

I couldn't help but approve Ant Man's desire to become closer to God.

"I think that's a great idea, Donnell, but you'll have to work hard.''

"I will. There's people who can help me with the big words?

''There'd better be.''

We shook hands, I thanked the helpful thugs, and then proceeded to settle into my third dorm in three days. I was warmly greeted by several old friends in K-2, who wanted to know the whole story of my recent travels.

When I woke up this morning to go to breakfast--two boiled eggs, grits, potatoes and two biscuits--I looked around for the sandhill cranes. I didn't see them. Perhaps they're looking for me in the south end.

All the best. Be safe.


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