Tag: freedom

4 Years After Prison, I Reached a Milestone

Well, y’all, I have officially reached a milestone of sorts. I have now been OUT of trouble… that means living fine, working hard, and loving life in general… longer than I have been IN trouble, as an adult at least. I guess this is sort of a skewed way of looking at it, because I am counting the time since I got locked up, rather than since I got let free. That is because, for me, locking me up is what got me on the right path. So since that day they closed the cell door and I knew I wasn’t coming out for awhile, things turned around.

I guess that can be an encouraging thought for those folks who are just now facing incarceration, or the incarceration of a family member or loved one. As ironic as it may sound, getting locked up can set you free. It’s up to the individual of course. Some guys will use the time to do nothing more than get tattoos, work out, and perfect their scrabble game. All that is fine, too. Nothing like being able to kick some butt in a friendly game of Scrabble. And getting strong and fit are great motivators and you feel good walking out of prison in tip top shape. No doubt. But you have to invest some time on the inner self as well. Read some, think some, make some decisions about what you want from life. Find out who you are. A lot of folks did nothing with their teen and adult years but spend them getting f’d up and in trouble haven’t really thought about themselves until they get into prison.

While I was incarcerated, I read a book by Bo Lazoff named “We are all doing time” and it made the point that monks and other religious folks seek simple surroundings and lack of freedom of choice to do deep meditation and work on themselves. When you go to prison, you basically have some pretty good surroundings to do some deep thinking. Yeah, it can be noisy and dirty and of course violent so it’s not exactly an ashram, but it can serve the purpose.

So I would say to anyone facing imprisonment, if you have no choice and have to get locked up, use the time productively at least. Work on yourself somehow, some way. Learn something, study something, get better at something. You may as well, it will give you that much more of a chance when you see the light at the end of the tunnel when your time served is done. Good luck and peace to all of you. Stay cool. ~ Magnum

Just like in prison – To divide is to conquer.

With all the hate going on in the world, it can be hard to keep a good outlook and positive attitude.

In prison it was much the same way – the overall feeling of hate and disrespect and ongoing oppression could get to you if you weren’t careful. You had to stay mindful to keep your head in the right place, and not let the hate become part of who you were. You had to choose to rise above it on a daily basis.

If you ask me, this hateful attitude everyone is carrying around is turning our country into something like the divisive atmosphere of being in prison. Think about it.

There is a lot of segregation and racism in prison. Racial groups keep to their own and don’t mingle much with others in prison. Even if on the outside world you are a guy with friends from every walk of life, when you are inside, you pretty much have to stick to your own. Ask anyone who has done time, they will confirm that this is the case. You have to choose who you are going to hang with, then stick with it.

And guess what – prison authorities prefer to keep this atmosphere of segregation alive and well, because to divide is to conquer.

If all the racial groups were to get along, then the prison population as a whole becomes stronger, and more powerful, and therefore harder to control. If prison authorities allow racial tension to keep simmering and even encourage it in small ways, then those racial groups act as small communities within the prison. Small communities that don’t get along with the other small communities, and constantly vie for power and status within the prison. Constantly worrying about each other rather than the bigger picture. The end result is the authorities do not have a large, strong group of inmates to worry about controlling. Instead, they have several small, less powerful groups of inmates to manage.

I can’t help but reflect on that, with all the hate and division going on in our country. Isn’t this attitude of division making us weak? Are we still a force to be reckoned with internationally, if we can’t even all get along as a country? Aren’t we weakening the overall force of the U.S. by spending so much time and energy on hating and pointing fingers at each other? We should be focused on uniting in the things we do have in common – like keeping our freedom from terrorists and the others who wish to take our power. This bad attitude of division that seems to grow by the day and seems to be fueled by politicians and the media is weakening us and is a danger to our freedoms.

Just like the prisoners in a prison, our strength as a country is diminished by allowing hate to keep us segregated and isolated in groups. Time to grow up and take note folks, because you better believe our enemies are taking note of this situation and know just how weak we are becoming as a country when we spend so much time and energy on hurting and hating each other rather than uniting for the common good.

But hey, what do I know? I am just an ex-con and a convicted felon. By law, I can’t even buy a firearm to protect myself and my family. So I hope we keep it together as a country, I need us to, my freedom is at stake. Peace out.

4th of July, 2015 – Can you find freedom while in prison?

For those of you with family and loved ones in prison on this 4th of July holiday weekend, especially those imprisoned for crimes of drug use, I will tell you this – freedom is a state of mind. A person can be more free while incarcerated than they ever were on the outside.

When I was going through real bad times with drug use I was not free. Sure, maybe I could jump in my truck and drive to a party on the 4th, drink some beer and eat some barbecue and that is so-called freedom, compared to being locked in a prison environment. But the reality is – that freedom isn’t real at all. My days and all my actions were consumed with getting drugs and maintaining my habit. I lied, I stole and I got pretty low during that time. I resorted to some things I didn’t think I would ever do. I didn’t care for the person I had become and I didn’t care that I didn’t care. It was best not to care actually.

In contrast to that, when I got sent to prison it was a time for me to get straight with myself. I am not just talking about kicking the dope. I did a lot of soul searching during that time. I read a lot of books that were deep and got me thinking in a few new ways. One of my favorites was “We Are All Doing Time” by the late Bo Lazoff. There were two major ideas in that book that helped me cope with imprisonment. One was that “everything is going to be OK”, regardless of the situation. I know that sounds too pie in the sky and kind of stupid. Sometimes things aren’t OK. Terrible situations exist, in prison and out. I won’t get into the whole idea behind it but basically it’s a way of looking at life and the situation you find yourself in, no matter how shitty, and accepting it for what it is, and finding a way to be OK with it.

The other concept I pondered a lot and still hang onto today is, you are only as free as your own mind is. When you are incarcerated and being treated like crap all the way around and living in conditions that are uncomfortable and lonely and sad – you can still choose to be free in your mind. You can have good thoughts in bad situations. You can be kind to others and to yourself even in an environment like prison, and you can grow and rise above a lot, if you choose to.

For anyone, incarcerated or not, who isn’t feeling free, I recommend this book. It’s a classic in the prison world but a good read for anyone. It is spiritual in nature but down to earth and easy to read. You can find it at The Human Kindness Foundation, a group that does prison outreach that was started by Bo and his wife Sita years ago. If you want to read a quick summary of the ideas behind Bo’s book, this write up about Bo Lozoff by Douglas Goetsch does a pretty good job. I like where it says “listen to your better angel, see the cell as a world, see the prison block as a garden, see the divine in the faces of the guards, the bullies, prosecuting attorneys, parole boards; write your daughter, apologize to your ex-, renounce your pals—they’re not your friends— forgive your father, forgive yourself.”

Peace out everyone. Hope your 4th is a time of freedom for you and your loved ones. ~ Magnum

Christmas in prison – a time for reflection

The holidays can be some of the toughest time for prison inmates and their families and loved ones. An inmate can feel incredibly alone and sad being in prison during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and New Years. It’s a time we associate with family and the reality of being locked up can hit hard. It’s a time when mothers and fathers cry for their sons and daughters, and wives and husbands yearn for the touch of their mate.
As a former inmate, I can tell you there were bright spots to the holidays. For one, the inmates tend to have an attitude of “we are in this together” and while I was incarcerated, it was typical to plan a party where we would pool all our stashes from commissary and make the best spread we could. Sure, it could be a little random – raman noodles, peanut butter and tuna fish, for example. But we did share, and have some fun together for a couple hours at least. And, even our holiday meals were a bit above average. A little more served, maybe even something special on the plate. Hey, better than usual at least!
And, here is another thought that offers a new perspective for many of us who are dealing with incarceration during the holidays. Today I got my newsletter from the Human Kindness Foundation. For a little back history, Bo and Sita Lazoff started the Human Kindness Foundation many years ago, as an outreach to inmates. Bo wrote a book named “We’re all doing time” that is really well known amongst inmates and is a great book for anyone. I highly recommend it for those who are religious or not, it offers a lot of wisdom and comfort. I found it VERY helpful during my incarceration.
Anyway, Bo Lazoff passed away 2 years ago, a great man lost too young, but his writings and lessons live on. For this quarter’s newsletter, The Human Kindness Foundation reprinted some of Bo’s articles and letters from 1998. He made a really great point about being incarcerated during the holidays. To paraphrase Bo’s thoughts about this, think about Jesus, and the way he lived. Where do you think you would have found him on Christmas? In someone’s cheerful living room tearing gift wrap off of presents? Or would he be at the side of those with struggles, those that are a bit lost or afraid and needing to find their belief in themselves, and their ability to love their fellow man? I think it’s easy to imagine that the place Jesus would very likely to be found was in a prison.
Maybe you can find some comfort in the thought that our incarcerated loved ones are perhaps in a position to not be “Merry”, or “Happy” but perhaps thoughtful and reflective, and therefore much closer to the true spirit of Jesus’ love than many of us out in the world. And if you or your loved ones are not particularly religious or Christian, that is OK. Let’s hope that our incarcerated loved ones find some peace and comfort during this Christmas, regardless of their beliefs.
Merry Christmas everyone, and peace to y’all. ~ Magnum

Short Timer Here

I feel like I am a short timer on my parole these days. I can see that light at the end of the tunnel. Can’t wait. it will be the first time in 7 years that I am not either locked up or on paper. My choices will be mine. Nobody looking over my shoulder. Just got to mind my business for another couple of months. I can do it, that’s not a problem at all.

I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but I can’t help but start to feel anxious for this all to be behind me. Maybe when another 7 years will go by I will have the bucks then to expunge my record also. I have a buddy who is working on that for himself, so I know it can be done. It will open up some doors for him I am sure, and if I could do it someday it might be well worth it for a lot of reasons.

Life is good these days. My beautiful wife and I are real happy. We feel like we are working towards something good together. Our son is beautiful, and healthy and happy. We’re getting better at making ends meet. I keep getting steady raises and Spring is almost here too, that means more hours. Can’t say I will miss the cold-ass weather we’ve had all winter long. I love spring and summer in the Texas Hill Country. It’s a beautiful state I live in. If some of y’all reading this are from out of state you are missing out for sure. Ha! I’m a lucky man. Feeling the love on this Sunday.

Peace to y’all. Keep the faith ~ Magnum

The Holidays – Then and Now

While I was in prison, the holidays were sad days. I couldn’t help but feel alone and sad and think of my family and friends more than usual. I think it’s safe to say that was something almost all of us in prison dealt with, although some tried to act like they didn’t care. Maybe they didn’t, who knows. We did try to make the best of it. We were given a better meal than usual, with baked chicken and turkey. Baked chicken is one of the few things that prison cooking can’t screw up, since it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require much in the way of seasoning. We also would make our own spread, pooling all of our items from commissary on one of the tables in the common area. Might not sound like it, but a buffet of ramen noodles, tuna fish, peanut butter and crackers can be downright festive if that is all you’ve got. We tried to have some laughs and have a little holiday spirit but I will be honest, it was a stretch. At night, when it was time to go to sleep, my last thoughts of the day were spent imagining the smiling faces of my family and dreaming of a future I wasn’t sure could ever be mine. I never want to be that lonely again.

This year my Christmas was like the exact polar opposite of those darker days. I had my wife and my son, who is 1 month old now, beside me. We took a couple nice drives to look at Christmas lights around town, and we listened to Christmas music quite a bit. Money is tight but we got lucky. We got a Christmas tree from my grandfather which added a lot of Christmas spirit to our place. Then I got a little Christmas bonus at work so we went shopping for ourselves and got a few necessities like some new work clothes for me, and things for my wife and son, and we wrapped them up and put them under the tree. That might sound a little goofy but it was fun.

If you are spending the holidays away from your loved ones, if they are incarcerated or living the life of addiction somewhere, hold on to hope. Things change. People change. What I learned is life is good when you let it be.

Imagine me, a father and husband, celebrating the holidays with my family, surrounded with so much love and happiness. This is the dream I had and now it is true. I have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to look forward to in 2014. Peace to y’all ~ Texas Magnum

Is that light at the end of the tunnel?

I am tired.

Tired of being here, tired of the classes I am in, tired of the work I do and mostly REALLY tired of this dorm I live in. I am tired of the loud mouths and the bad attitudes. I am tired of the CO’s and tired of the other inmates. I am tired of writing letters to family because there really isn’t any news to talk about with them anymore. I am tired of drinking coffee that tastes like rusty nails. I am tired of having to strip down for every little thing and I am tired of noise and lack of privacy and pretty much just everything about this place. And, sorry, I am tired of writing this blog right now too. That is why I haven’t posted anything in awhile. It feels as if there is nothing left to say.

And that is GREAT news. Because if I wasn’t, something would be seriously wrong with me. No sane man or woman should ever get too used to this. When I get out I don’t want to be one of those who forgets just how crappy it is to be locked up away from everyone and everything you care about and make a stupid mistake and end up back here again. I plan to remember this forever and to use it to make sure I never come back.

Here’s the one awesome thing I am focused on: I am on track to finish up my classes sometime in February. That means that as early as March, I could be released on parole. Now I can start to look forward to the end of this, and start imagining the future and freedom. I can now say that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Before I get out of here, there are still a few things to get past. I need to keep out of trouble for the remainder of the time here. I don’t think that is going to be a problem but then again around here you really don’t know what’s going to go down at any time. All I can do about that is wake up every day and do my best to avoid trouble.

I am going to spend another Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years here too. That sucks. It is a little depressing to think about. There’s not anything to look forward to about that and really my best bet is to just pretend it’s not a holiday and look forward to much better times next year.

I will spend another birthday here as well. That sucks too because I can’t help but notice that I have wasted some of my life here in a very real way. Celebrating a couple birthdays in prison really will make you stop and think about what you have done with your life.

I have said before though, I am not going to let this define me. I believe I have it in me to get a fresh start and to do things different this time. I have been thinking of a few things I can do when I get home to keep on track. I know I will be required to go to AA meetings as part of my parole. When I was on probation before all this happened, I didn’t always appreciate being told I HAD to go to AA. But I have decided that when I get home, one of the things I am going to do is hit a meeting. I am going to walk in there and tell them right off, “I just got out of prison and I don’t want to use or go back to prison, so here I am.”

I am going to volunteer my time if they need help with anything, that way I can stay busy. And, I feel it IS true that if I hang with people trying to do the same thing, I’m more likely to succeed. So, even if I don’t like everything about AA, it will be good to do. I have a lot of other plans too. I am going to try some new things and enjoy some stuff I never had money for when I was spending my pay on drugs and alcohol.

Light at the end of the tunnel. There is something hopeful out there. I can leave this place behind in the rear view mirror and move on down the road in just a few more months.

Sending peace your way ~ Magnum

Missing out on life

After being incarcerated for the last seven months, I have learned the truth about what being locked up and the loss of freedom means to a man.

Before all this happened, losing my freedom meant something completely different to me than what it does now. I thought losing my freedom meant not being able to come and go as I wanted, not being able to sleep in when I wanted, stay out late when I wanted and to do what I wanted. I thought it meant not having a corrections officer telling me where to go or not go, and I thought it meant being able to jump in my truck and go float the river or hang out with friends or play music whenever I wanted to.

Well it does mean all of that. And of course I miss those things. But a person gets used to whatever their circumstances are, and they find a way to make a little life out of it. I have my people I hang with here, and I have my routine. I find things to laugh about and things to think about. I watch TV, work out, play dominoes, read and write. I skip breakfast if I want and I buy snacks or other foods in the commissary if I don’t like the meals. So in short, although I am incarcerated I am not stripped of all free will. I still have a voice, and some options.

Here is what I don’t have – being a part of my family and their lives. Here is a short list of what I have missed out on during the past seven months of incarceration:
– My mother’s birthday
– Thanksgiving
– Christmas
– New Year’s
– My birthday
– The death of my grandfather
– The birth of my first niece

The holidays and birthdays are days I hate to have missed but I can deal with those. But, the death of my grandfather and the birth of my niece have caused me to feel deeply how cut off I am from those I love and who love me. The most severe punishment of not being “free” is missing these milestones in life. In not being there to support my grandmother and father when my grandfather passed, I feel I have let them down greatly. I feel my selfishness, which got me here in the first place, is once again to blame for a failure to be the person I should be in life. In not being able to celebrate the birth of my sister’s beautiful new daughter, I feel I have let her and her husband down.

My family has always tried to love me and be there for me, when I needed them, yet I am not there for them now. I pray that when I am released I can make up some of this to the people I love. This is what the REAL punishment of incarceration is. Not being behind a locked gate, not living with a bunch of other incarcerated men in a cage like an animal, but the loss of my freedom to BE THERE.

Freedom isn’t about walking through a door or jumping in a car, it’s about picking up a phone to call your grandmother and talk about fond memories of your grandfather. It’s about sending your sister a bouquet of flowers and sending your niece a stuffed teddy bear. It’s about taking your mother out to eat on her birthday or handing your brother-in-law a Christmas gift.

If you are reading this today while free, take a minute to call the people you love and tell them so. Use your freedom to reach out to someone you care about.

Prison is a funny place.

Prison is a funny place. You sit in here, day after day, imagining what it will feel like when you are released. We all make a list of things to do, when we are “free”. Most mens’ list are a little like this:

1) Get laid
2) Eat a huge steak
3) Sleep in a comfortable bed

Everyone’s list is somewhat different but most men have a list similar to my example. (Ask them, if you don’t believe me.)

Of course, I myself know that I look forward to MANY things. From women, to work, to spending time with my family.

What I wonder today is, what about when we get out and accomplish all these things on our list? We reach the top of the shrine we have created named “freedom”. We, in here, idolize this shrine. We spend a good amount of time thinking, dreaming, and imagining it becoming a reality for us. FREEDOM becomes our goal.

But then… we get out… and we look for all these things we miss so much – women and food, comfort and pleasure – and all of a sudden, after these short lived goals are realized, there is nowhere to go, but down. And depression can then set in. And we still face the stark realities of finding jobs, complying with parole, and a whole lot more.

After talking with several fellow inmates who have been down this road a time or two already, I can only conclude one thing. Freedom is a state of mind. Many inmates have told me that once they do everything they had been holding onto, on that list of theirs, they found themselves once again unsatisfied with their lives and looking for something more. The question arises “what is next?” 

I feel that’s where learning to become happy with the small things comes in handy. The honest to God’s fact is, I am “moderately” happy right here and now. I appreciate any little thing I get in here.

It’s taking that attitude of appreciation for things back out into the world that might give me a foot up, once I am out in the world again.  It might turn out to be the lesson in all of this, for me. It’s all about taking that appreciation for things into back into the world.

Maybe not taking life for granted is what can get us ALL to the place we want to be, once we are once out into the free world again.

So, today I think I will sit back and just enjoy the small things. Like, the company of my celly. Or the taste of my crappy coffee  I am sipping on. Or even my crappy, thin, hard mattress that I will lay my head down on tonight.

Because it’s not all that bad, and it’s what I got, and I never know what day will be my last.

Peace ~ Magnum