Opportunity

I find some days of my incarceration quite surreal. I have never experienced a situation like this one. My time spent in the prison in Haiti was more of living in extreme poverty surrounded by everyday Haitians. (Read my earlier blogs and upcoming book and you’ll learn about that amazing story where what others meant for evil God used for good) My eight years of living and serving in Haiti prior to the imprisonment, made those living conditions manageable. I never felt threatened really, and those I met and lived with were more like everyday Haitians, not criminals, not individuals that spent most of their life incarcerated.

However the environment in a high security, United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute is quite different. Most inmates here are violent offenders: rapists, murderers, some of the worst of the worse. Most of them have life sentences. Most have been in and out of incarceration their whole life. The U.S. justice system works on a point system, and you get higher points based on the frequency of your offenses, the level of violence, etc. Most inmates have points over 20, some over 50, which keep them in a high security prison.

I was told recently from a case manager that they have never met an inmate at high security with as little points as me. I have a total of 4 points, but my length of sentence makes me qualify for the high security. Really I should be housed at a camp level prison, but because of my length of sentence, I am required to spend up to 10 years in a high security USP.

I find myself emotionally and spiritually in a much better place these days because my perspective has changed. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and feeling like a victim, I see life, I see my incarceration as an opportunity. A phenomenal oppurtunity never the less. Part of my life change has been re-joining the Life Connections Program, a faith based intensive program to help with recidivism, to help individuals desiring a real life change. It is a 18-month program with day long classes daily, taught by religious leaders living locally, working as contractors of the prison. The classes I'm taking are taught from a Christian Catholic perspective. 'and my Spiritual guide is an elderly nun, a devote Roman Catholic retired leader.

I am enjoying the courses and enjoy the conversations even more. This past few weeks the topics we have been diving into are: Honesty, Caring, Responsibility, Open-mindedness, Willingness, and Humility. We spend a lot of time writing on these topics, sharing our struggles and our strengths in these issues as well as identifying scripture that relate to these topics. Then we share what we have written in the classes with the small group.

Our class consists of six inmates currently. Two of the inmates in the class day today are high profile criminals, both of whom you may likely have heard or read about in the national news reports. One individual is serving his life sentence for serious and violent crimes. The other is serving his life sentence for similar and equally egregious crimes. Listening to these individuals open up about humility about real life change has been remarkable. I have learned much from them and as our relationship grows I've been able to share about Christ's redemptive love and forgiveness by sharing my life experiences. Where else would I have an opportunity like this one?