6-1-07 LETTER to JACK

EDITOR”S note: Jack was a good friend on the outside and my pastor’s husband who wrote regularly and visited when he could.

Fishkill
6/1/07
Hi Jack,
Pardon the yellow paper but that’s all I could buy at the last commissary. Thanks for another great letter. You’re right, this does cause me to work on my penmanship. (spelling still doesn’t count!)
I am now out of 4-2 reception and into a dorm like setting, 55 guys on a floor with various room sizes and cubes. I am in a 4 man room, one older gentleman who is “showing me the ropes” as he had been in here at least 25 years! Then there are 2 younger guys. The floor is a mixture of the same. The 4-2 on the envelope gave me a free pass of 5 letters a week while using these. Now I’m on my own, that’s why stamps are like gold, just like cigarettes. The older guy & I made a great dinner on the stove top last night as the mess hall served processed meats (cold cuts) which I do not eat. At lunch there were hot dogs and hamburgers (Memorial Day teat) but I was fasting till 4. It was suggested on church and coincided so nicely with the meals, funny how those things work out.
We did have a great visit together. (Editor’s note: wife visited) The weather was cool but sunny. It really didn’t matter as I would have done anything to see her. It is much looser here and we could get up and move, even go outside to a small yard with picnic tables. We had a little over 3 hours which was great, but I could always use more. No telling the next time.
I have been going to the Protestant services here in the PM, actually double dipping with the AM Catholic service which I will now discontinue. It is too dry. I also notice everyone, including the priest, says the ritual sayings, even the Lord’s Prayer, so FAST and with very little feeling, almost in a toneless monotone. Very odd to me. They have some sayings I think are great, but they rush through them so. About 40 people typically attend. The Protestant service starts with a lot of great music and ends similarly. If your feet and/or hands are not moving with the music, check your pulse. In between, the Hispanics have a go at it which reminds me SO much of what I heard in Buenos Aires. The minister is right on the money and, like your wife, goes deep into the scripture and its application to our lives. No skating easy there. The place is packed each Sunday, over 140 people. I could use a few less Amen’s and hallelujahs, but the place is filled with God’s spirit. I can see prison drives people to believe and offers HOPE, something so many of their lives on the outside lack. Even in here. It can also offer a form of control which is missing, and forgiveness. I can see why you may struggle for men’s group attendance. One, there is so much to do they feel. Two, opening up may be hard. Here, people let it hang and are open in the church setting. Some carry it outside, some I see do anyway. I guess I am saying there seems to be more purpose for us here to do Bible/book study & things of that type. I have often thought lately that I should form a group for sexual offenders to meet and talk. The transition from inside to out is abrupt, and from my short time here I can imagine without some follow-up and guidance, same as with drugs, alcohol, etc. may just repeat. Believe me, I am not interested in EVER going back on line and will work NEVER to return here for ANY reason. However, the recidivism rate for S.O.’s, mainly Class 2 & 3 (I am class 1) is high I am told. That tells me something isn’t right and maybe should be changed. The State agrees with the former, so they 98% of the time simply keeping s.o.’s in jail longer that the minimum even though the results continue to show that DOESN’T work! (You know the definition of insanity right?!!) I am hoping I might help work to a better solution, although what that is right now is not clear. Suggestions welcome! Haha.
I will keep your men’s group in my thoughts & prayers. I guess this crisis definitely has illuminated what is and isn’t of importance more than ever, like any tragedy or death might do. Of course at the time, some people say and do things that fade after time while others make changes. We all know how difficult that can be for any of us.
For that matter, how do you get more men to even attend Sunday services? What is lacking? We have the best “preacher” in town – and I ‘m not saying this cause she’s your wife or because I was on the PNC. She has a gift and it’s odd to me why others do not attend more regularly. From here (my house) there is for too much going on in people’s lives, a lot of it bunk. I know and have probably shared with you my frustration of Sunday sports & practices. The family is not sacred to many families despite their verbal mantras that it is, lest changes have to be made….
I also talked with my son via phone last weekend. Needless to say we both cried a lot. I’m in hopes to hear more from him via mail.
I will be working in the Grievance office 6 hours/day starting next week, and maybe split it with 3 hours in Transitional Services for guys getting ready to leave. They do not have the S.O. program here that I need, so I know I will again be moved, probably in 6 months or more. Till then, I am keeping busy volunteering and thinking of ways to help guys like me in and out of prison. My first parole review comes up 12/08, so that is my goal.
I too have seen the human beings of which you speak. That is part of what makes this place SO bizarre. If they all snarled and gnashed their teeth or had tattoos (wait, most Do have tattoos!) it would be different. The place is like a dorm, with a TV & kitchen area like most colleges. (no microwave or fridge here. So to think of us as evil is difficult, even absurd. A counselor today said the system wants chaos within to keep the system going – it’s their (C.O.’s) livelihood. Without it, they wouldn’t have a job. Anyway, when you think about it and study it, which I do, it drives you crazy.
Take care. Peace and love to you both,
Van

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