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- Exploring Religious Options
God's Divine Intervention in a Convict's Life
God's Hand Reaches into Prisons
Transforming Life on Hell's Doorstep
This is a true story about a young man whom we shall call Billy, to protect the not so innocent. Having grown up in a somewhat dysfunctional family in the Midwest during the tumultuous 70's, Billy grew up mostly spending time with bikers that were heavily involved in drugs.
After becoming involved in drug sales, Billy was arrested several times for various drug possession charges. At this point, Billy decided to run from the prison time he was facing, forever forfeiting his family and friends in his hometown as a fugitive from justice.
This series of wrong choices led to more wrong choices for the young, rebellious Billy. Being a wanted fugitive wasn't exciting and glamorous, like it's portrayed in the movies. Billy found out that his career choices were quite limited by being wanted by the law, thereby seeming to trap himself into the drug sales that started his troubles.
Having run around the country trying to evade his troubled past, finally brought Billy to Florida. Here he was finally arrested again, on charges of possession of a half pound of marijuana with intent to distribute. Our story really begins here, when Billy couldn't bond out of jail to continue his flight from his troubles. Billy's bond was set at $20,000, and his dad told him, that he had made this bed for himself, so now he was going to have to lie in it.
Facing forty years in prison brought the painful reality of my lifestyle choices to the forefront of my every waking thought. With no way to escape, or to beat the charges against me, I cried out to God for help and wisdom about what I should do.
George was a jailhouse preacher that came to the jail to talk about Jesus. He wasn't a good preacher, really kind of goofy, but with nothing better to do, his simple message got my attention.
My parents had taken me to church, but I always thought that it wasn't real, but just a religious social club. One night, in sincerity I cried out to Jesus, asked him to forgive my sinful life, and for his help to turn my life around. I knew immediately that something was different in me, as I now felt that I should confess my guilt to my charges, trusting God for the judge's decision, no matter what it was. I finally pled guilty to the charges and received a three year sentence in prison.
After eight months in the county jail, I was sent to Baker Correctional for the remainder of my sentence. When I first got there, I just turned 21 years old and weighed one hundred and thirty pounds sopping wet. Baker was a min./medium custody prison built for 450 inmates at a time, and seemed like a boy scout camp for the first two weeks.
Two weeks later, they started shipping two busloads of maximum security prisoners to Baker every day of the week. This was due to maximum security prison over crowding, and a federal judge ordering Florida DOC to ship those prisoners away from the severely crowded ones, or let them go.
Since they could hardly let thousands of violent prisoners serving long sentences out on the streets, they were sent to prisons not so closely watched. Although Baker was designed for 450 min. security inmates in a dormitory setting, over 800 maximum security inmates were shipped in until the population pushed close to 1300.
The dormitories that once held almost 120 inmates now held over 300, with only two guards in a middle booth to watch over them. They just pushed the 2-high bunks within eighteen inches of each other to make room for all the new inmates.
All hell broke loose, as these convicted thugs and killers had been locked up for years and most would never get out of prison. Men that had done such vile things in society that most of their family and friends would no longer have nothing to do with them.
Men such as Edward, the old convict who moved into the bunk under mine. With seven life sentences plus three hundred years, Edward would never be in free society ever again. Edward had been involved in drug deals that went bad, killed three or four people that were cut up and stuffed into the trunk of the car i which he was arrested after an armed robbery. At fifty, Edward was a dangerous man that ran a large part of the prison black market. If you owed him ten dollars and agreed to pay him at 5:00, be there on time, or you would be stabbed as a late charge for being ten minutes late.
While there had been fights before, now men were knifed in vital areas over a bar of soap or a soda. Gangs roamed around in packs at night to steal, rob, and rape at knife point. The gangs would generally tap someone in the head with a steal pipe just to wake them up to be victimized.
Young men desperate to get away from the horrible atrocities attempted to escape from this hellish prison. I watched five men hit the tall fence topped with razor-wire at one time to increase their chances of escape. Two got shot off the fence, one dead, the other in critical condition. One jumped to keep from being shot only to badly fracture his leg, with the bone jutting out his thigh. Out of the two that made it over the fence, one was pinned down by AR-15 fire, the last one got away for a few hours. They all had fifteen years added to their sentences for attempting to escape, except for the boy that got killed. I guess his escape was successful.
Conditions got so bad that everyone was joining gangs, just for a better chance of survival. There were five major riots in the year that I was there, with goon squads coming in with full riot gear. Most of the riots were gang and drug related for control of the prison black market. After each riot, guards would search for weapons and find enough knives and even guns to fill pillowcases from every dorm.
With all the gang and racial violence, you could barely stand to eat the cafeteria food any longer, unless it was a solid piece, such as fried chicken. Any type of food mixture wasn't fit for consumption, you were liable to find anything in it. Rocks, soap, wads of dirty duct tape were typical things to find, and usually started lesser kitchen riots. It was then, that I made the mistake of going back to what I knew to get by. I justified moving some drugs on the compound, to be able to afford to eat packaged food from the commissary, or stuff bought under the table from guys I knew in the kitchen.
Although, I was seeking God with prayer and Bible reading, in these circumstances, I found it difficult to trust God to protect me or feed me. I had been training with a martial arts master for most of my time there, and could effectively deal with the incidents of violence that came my way. Still, with my being small, there were times when a few of the gang bangers would try me.
Now, I found myself delivering five to twenty dollar packs of marijuana for the drug gang members I knew. I set out to deliver a twenty dollar pack across the compound with a "buddy" walking along with me. As we started across the compound, I glanced back to see five men come out behind us. The leader of this group was looking directly at me, as he sent two of them running out and around to cut us off.
"You see what's fixing to go down here, don't you Ken?"
"No, what?" he responds, being completely oblivious.
"Those three behind us and the two running over there are going to jack us!"
"Well, I'll see you later. Good luck," He says, with fear spreading over his face.
"Yeah, thanks alot," I grumbled mostly to myself. I picked up my pace, hoping to keep from entertaining all five of my stalkers at the same time. Glancing back, I see that they have also sped up and are coming at me like sharks that smell blood in the water. The other two have run around to cut me off from the dorm to which I was headed. I glance up to the guard tower to see a guard looking directly at me through binoculars. They know something's up too, but they'll be too late to do anything, but clean up the mess.
I think to myself, what the hell am I doing? If I get caught with even this much weed on the prison compound, they'll give me fifteen more years for possession, maybe fifteen for sales too. I push these thoughts away to concentrate on my five attackers, who are now bearing down on me.
I speed up, so that I'll meet the two in front of me, before the other three catch up. I glance back to see the three back ten feet, and turn to catch an arm swinging a wide punch at me. I use his momentum to throw him into his partner and they both topple to the ground.
I glance back again to see that the leader of the three is cupping a shank, signaling the other two to engage me, so he can stick me. I take two more quick strides to get away from the two on the ground, turning back quickly to catch another punch directed at the back of my head. Once more, I catch an arm, throwing my weight into him to send him hard into the other. Their leader, the one that seems to have an evil entity looking at me through his eyes, looks dismayed that his four boys are all downed that easy. The first two are getting back on there feet and shaking their heads no.
I turn, walking quickly towards the dorm again, noticing the guard with the binoculars still watching and talking on his walkie-talkie. I glance back to see the gang boss trying to stir his troops back up, but they're having no part of it. All I did was slam them into each other. I guess they figure it was too easy for me.
I figure that I'm home free as I stride quickly to the dorm, with my matchbox of weed in hand. I then plainly hear someone whisper urgently, "Duck," just as enter the dorm, so I duck and spin, feeling something brush forcefully through the hair on top of my head. The gang boss had run up behind me. Swinging a curl bar so hard, that when it hit the concrete block wall, it flew thirty feet out of his hands hitting the officer's station. When I saw them come running out, I yell and throw the matchbox to a boy I know.
Now, I was between my attacker and his escape exit from the guards running towards us. He runs at me while slashing with the shank at my face. I catch his knife hand and spin past him, propelling him towards the door. As the perpetrator runs away, the guards grab me, pushing me against the wall for a quick, rough search.
"Just what the hell is going on here? Who was that other guy?" they demand to know. Without giving me a chance to answer, adding. "What dorm are you from anyway?"
"I don't know who that was or what it was about. Never seen him before, must be some racial thing. You'll have to ask him. Ah, I'm from C-dorm." I reply, feigning innocence.
"Just get the hell outta here, keep that crap over there in C," they respond, as they literally throw me out.
I hang around long enough to collect the money for the weed, and start walking back to C-dorm. What in the hell am I doing? For the five dollars I make off of that, I face fifteen years if I get caught, almost got the back of my head ripped off by a weight bar, which would've killed me or made me a vegetable for life. Not to mention, I have a parole hearing next week, and could be getting out in 4 or 5 months. I must be crazy!
Wait a minute, where did that voice come from? There wasn't anybody there! I had no idea that crazy sob was swinging that bar at the back of my head. But I know what I heard, someone said "Duck," warning me or I'd be dead. Could that have been an angel from God protecting me? I don't know for sure, all I know is I can't do this crap anymore.
"God, if that was you protecting me, and I believe it had to be. Thank you for saving my miserable life, and please forgive me. I don't know much about living for you, in a right way. It does say in your word, that you reveal yourself to those who aren't even searching for you. Please help me to do what's right. Amen."
By the time I got back across the compound, news of this robbery attempt had spread throughout. Dennis, the ring leader of the drug group came up to me smiling. "Everyone's calling you Billy the kid, cause you drop 'em hard and fast. Don't worry about "Rad," the leader. He'll be dead in a couple of hours. I dropped fifty bucks on his head to ensure he's dead. After all, you were delivering for me."
"Wait a minute Dennis, that's not necessary, no one even touched me!"
"That's not the point, we need to teach anybody not to even try to jack any of our guys," Dennis said with authority."
Not wanting anyone's blood on my hands, I offered, "Dennis, let me handle it. They tried to jack me. I'll go directly to them and deal with it appropriately, a death isn't necessary. Just pull the fifty bucks off his head!"
"Well, alright, but there isn't any refunds on hit money. But I suppose I can tell him that we decided to handle it in house. To keep the money as a retainer for whenever it's needed. Everyone will know we have a standing hit on retainer. That's a great idea. I'll wait to see if you have any trouble, before I pull the hit. Just so you know, he's in here for two murders, one more won't keep him here any longer. So be careful. " Dennis says, looking almost gleeful.
I walk off thinking, Dennis really is a cold, sick b@$#@$d. I fianally find my little gang tucked into the handball courts. When they see me, fear spreads across half their faces, even as they all pull shanks. "Look, I'm not here to fight. I'm just here to speak with Rad, the rest of you can get the hell outta here!"
They look at Rad, who gives them a nod to scram. I walk over to within five feet of him, ignoring the shank in his right hand. Looking directly into those eyes, I again think there's another entity looking at me, desiring to kill me.
"So what the hell you want, to kill me? I should kill you for making me look so bad!" he says as if he relishes the thought.
"Kill me? You with your boys, couldn't touch me, so don't try to scare me. No, you should be thanking me for saving your life!"
"Saving my life, what you talking about?" he responds with obvious confusion.
"Well, the guy I work for is a real big time smuggler on the streets. He's already dropped fifty bucks on your head to ensure that you're dead by tonight." His eyes got big on that note, I had his attention. "I had him pull the fifty bucks from your head, so the hit is on retainer, should it ever be needed. I don't need anyone to cover me. So you spread the word that I pardoned you and that there's a standing hit option. If you or you boys ever try me again. I'll kill you, it's as simple as that."
He smirked, then added, "Awright, we straight, cool." He put his shank back under his shirt, as I turned to walk away. A thought seemed to drop out of the sky, that what I saw in his eyes was a literal "spirit of murder" lusting to kill me. I shivered with the very thought. I sure hope walking with God in prison gets easier. At least if they kill me, I won't have to spend a lifetime in here for defending myself.
For the prequel in Billy's story:
- Forgiveness An Act of God's Grace in the Face of True Evil
When Billy went to prison, he didn't know much about God. In the midst of difficult circumstances, he learned of God's grace and love, as well as the need to forgive others.