I must say, the past couple weeks have been pretty crazy. Such is life as a prisoner. I really don’t know where to begin? I guess for starters, I am no longer at Harnett Correctional working construction. You’ll never guess where I am now! I chuckle thinking about the implausibility of everything. It took me a days’ worth being handed off from prison bus to prison bus until I finally ended up back at my old stomping grounds: Brown Creek Correctional…again.
If you don’t remember what Brown Creek is, it was the prison camp I spent about a year and a half at before Heavenly Father was merciful to me. He helped me make a quick escape by miraculously shipping me to Harnett.
The state of North Carolina decided to close Brown Creek because it was riddled with gang activity and overflowing with drugs. Those were difficult days for me – trying to stay out of harm’s way and also retaining a portion of the spirit, while the camp was closing. It was anarchy.
Since I was a cook for the camp, I was told I was going to be one of the last ones to ship out. Instead, the Lord saw fit that I needed to be one of the first to get out there – of which I am immensely grateful for. Again, it was a miracle I got away so quick.
Harnett became a huge blessing for me. It truly was a prison temple. But now I am back at Brown Creek, even though so much has changed, all the old memories came flooding back.
I can’t say I am all too thrilled to be back, but all I can really do is laugh. This place carries my blood, sweat and tears, in an all too literal sense. It is the setting for some of the single hardest times of my life. And now I am back… I AM BACK! Ha! I still can’t believe it. Here I thought this place was closed, and yet I woke up this morning and here I am.
Though now that I have come full circle I see clearly the hand of God in these seemingly batty course of events. The lessons of heaven are very present. It took me a couple of days, but I no longer resent the Lord and His will. Alternately, I praise His name in humble thanks for the unending love He bestows on one of the least of His servants. He has gone over and beyond all expectations, just to show little ol’ me that I am in His hands. My heart is filled recognizing these things. However, I know if He does things like this for me, a prisoner, I know He does (and will do) even greater things for you! To explain, let me first inform you the details of how the North Carolina prison system operates.
I guess the state decided not to close Brown Creek after all, but instead chose to change the way it was being ran. In fact, this camp is no longer called Brown Creek Correctional, but rather Lanesboro Correctional. It also got a whole new line of revamping and modifications. The biggest change, however, is that it is no longer housing medium custody inmates. The new camp is now what we call a “Green Clothes.” camp; it houses only minimum custody inmates.
The North Carolina prison system is ran off a completely asinine mandatory sentencing module influenced by the state of Florida. Due to this, every offender is given a number like that of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This number identifies us through a company called OPUS. OPUS then assigns every inmate a certain amount of points as soon as they come to prison. Points are assigned by the seriousness of the crime, record history, age, and things of that nature. It is this point system that defines an inmate’s custody level and causes all of us headaches, and a great amount of stress.
There are three different custody levels an inmate can be classified according to how many points they were assigned -maximum, medium, and minimum. Obviously, the more points you have the tougher security you’re obligated to be under. Maximum security is nicknamed “closed custody, because you are put in a cell and rarely come out. Those are for the really serious crimes. Death row is considered “closed custody” as well. Medium security – where I spent most of my time, is nickname “brown clothes,” because of the brown pants we wear (they actually look more purple and pink after being washed so many times – pretty funny J). “Brown clothes” is your average prison – double fenced with guard towers, limited freedoms, but definitely a lot better than “closed custody.” It’s where most of the prison population is housed. The last security custody is minimum – security which we have nicknamed “green clothes.” Because, aside from both maximum and medium security inmates who wear brown pants, minimum-security inmates wear forest green pants, for whatever reason.
As you can imagine, it is the automatic aim for someone newly coming to prison to get their assigned points to come down so they can quickly get to “green clothes.” The most freedoms a prisoner can have is within a minimum-security camp. Unlike the other two custody’s, “green clothers” inmates can get work-release (a job outside of the prison gates), and they can also be awarded “home passes” where they can go home for the weekend. So of course every prisoner’s dream is to get their “Greens.”
I know that it was a big goal for me when I first came to prison. I was trying to do everything I could think of to get my points to come down so I could get promoted to “green clothes.” But that’s the thing…literally no one knows how points come off. Of course, everyone has their speculations, but that’s all they are…speculation. Some say that two points come off every year; some say three, while others argue that points come off when you have a birthday. Most everyone thinks taking certain state-sanctioned psychological classes brings your points down. But I tried that strategy for years (literally) to get into those classes and never could. My points came down anyway. No one can tell me why. Not even case managers and prison staff.
The only thing that is for certain is how points are added, which occurs when an inmate gets a write-up for doing something wrong. Therefore, on the flip side, it would be an intelligent guess that having good behavior brings points down. But alas, no one really knows – thus: the headache – trying desperately to obtain something that absolutely no one knows how to obtain. Talk about feeling helpless when it comes to controlling your future, especially when it is in direct correlation with your freedom. It just makes the aggravation that much more intense. Having this aggravation is what has caused me to learn amazing lessons regarding the workings of a God of love.
I don’t think I adequately painted the picture of my frustrations in trying to control the future of my prison time. The one thing I knew for sure was that I was not going to allow these four years to be a waste of time. When I get released from prison, I am going to look back at all the time and hold my head up proud (humble) of who I am and what I did. Sure, there would be bumps in the road, but for the most part, I just want to be happy with the time the Lord has given me inside these prisons.
So in my mind, to assure that happiness, I was going to do everything in my power to make sure my points came down, and get myself into “green.” I would get a job, save some money, prepare for home and hit the street running.
When I first came to prison, I was sent to Brown Creek Correctional, which was a medium security prison. There I bugged every staff member I could to get my points to come down. I tried enrolling in every class they offered. I tried doing extra jobs or being extra good. I was the “Brown nose in Brown clothes.”
But it seemed that the more I tried to get myself into “green” the farther they became. I was never chosen for the classes, all my hard work went unnoticed. Then everything took a major U-turn when some psycho punched me in the mouth for no reason, and I ended up taking the blame for it all. I got a fighting write-up which jacked my points way up, pretty much ending all hopes of getting my “greens.”
About a month later, Brown Creek closed, I moved to Harnett Correctional, and got a job working inside the fence as a medium custody construction worker. It was about this time that I accepted my fate of never being promoted for “greens.” I stopped all attempts completely at trying. It took a little while, but I soon became content with that reality.
In fact, I mapped out the rest of my time, what I’d do and how I would stay busy until I got released. My plan was to take an advanced year-long electrical engineering course offered by one of the local colleges. The instructor was a good Christian man, willing to teach me at a pace I would be comfortable with. I figured in the time I had left I could really soak up a lot, gain a lot of experience and be ready to begin a career doing something I liked when I got released from prison. I mean, c’mon…how cool would it be to be able to say, “I work with light” when someone asks!? Ha ha!
“Brown clothes” was where I was and it was where I wanted to stay. I would be released from prison from Brown clothes and I was okay with it. I figured I was in the Lord’s hands, and I was going to make the most of it. So then how did I ever end up getting my “greens”? Good question.
Well, the state of North Carolina and all its greedy splendor with these mandatory sentencing laws has over flooded the system. Too many people are getting sentenced with ridiculous amounts of time. The prisons and all the jail houses are fall. To counteract, the state uses the taxes to build new prisons, open up old ones and hire waves of new recruits.
Then, on June 1, 2017, the state completely altered its system of rules and regulations. The Department of Public Safety has basically made it a lot easier for inmates to drop their points and get promoted to lesser security custody’s. So as of June 1, according to the new system, I fit the criteria for “green clothes” promotion. And where as before, when you could opt out or turn down a promotion, now they force you to take it. So now I am here, at my old rundown camp, in my “greens” and I didn’t do a single thing to get them.
Do you see the irony of it all? The more I tried to get my “greens” the harder it became. Then when I stopped trying, and actually didn’t want to go to “green clothes” is when I am forced to go. I laugh! It’s too batty!
Obviously, I can talk about the lesson that God’s idea of our future is infinitely better than our own ideas. Eventually, we should put our absolute trust in Him. He is the Master Potter and we are but helpless clay in His hands. Too often we kick against the pricks, availing nothing, when all we had to do was humble ourselves and let go – letting God drive us to the Promised Land.
Surely that is a vital lesson to learn in our PrisonTemples. The only way that our prisons can also be temples is through the grace of Christ and the ever powerful hand of God. Ultimately, the temple part of our PrisonTemples is a gift.
Because of the series of events in my life, I’d like to turn your attention more on how God creates these gifts instead of what He creates. When I first came to prison, I had always assumed that in order for me to get my “greens” I had to change or that I had to jump through hoops and do certain things to qualify for this promotion. I never once considered that in order for me to get to “green clothes” that the prison itself, and the prison system had to change. Because that is exactly what happened. I tell you, I’ve done nothing to earn my “greens,” yet here I am. I didn’t change, Brown Creek changed. I realize now, looking back, that the reason I never went to “greens” when I first came to prison wasn’t because I wasn’t ready, but because Brown Creek, nor the prison system were ready.
It’s this perspective that is broadened my horizons on what exactly is possible through God. And even then, my view is still so limited!
I guess what I’m saying is that when we ask God for things, our minds are so terribly closed at the possibilities. We think everything must be done among ourselves, and we have the sole obligation foreseeing the answers to our prayers, and God’s only part in the matter is giving permission on whether or not we deserve the answer.
I humbly beg to differ! God’s part is the most glorious part! He answers our prayers with infinite love using miraculous power to do for us what would be impossible for any of us to do for ourselves. He not only changes hearts, He changes settings, circumstances, rules, nature. He changes paradigms, He can change anything and everything just by speaking, because He has all power, because He has all love. He is the Master Potter with the aim of making masterpieces out of His children.
That is us, my friends. Please never forget who is watching over you. Not only an all-powerful omnipotent God, but also His all loving Son, through which makes all things possible. So when you have questions, doubts, fears, or just plain have no idea what to do (like I often do…) remember that you ARE in the hands of God’s that love you fully and completely. Anything is possible to them and they are making you into beautifully grand gods. Therefore, the ways they will employ to see you to that end, are incomprehensibly marvelous! Understand this, please, the next time you go to pray to your Heavenly Father…He not only changes you, but He changes everything around you! I don’t know about you, but that just makes me want to keep praying to Him, grab a bag of popcorn and sit excitedly to see what is next on His agenda for me. For now, I’ve got my “greens,” and I think I’m doing all right. Not bad for a guy that just stayed patient, eh?