Real Housewife prepares for real prison time

real-housewives-new-jersey-stars-comments-teresa-giudice-prison-sentence-pp-slhttp://time.com/3650468/teresa-giudice-pledges-to-give-up-bad-carbs-for-the-new-year-in-prison/

While I had to laugh when reading this, in a funny (and sad) way it is an example of preparing for prison. By vowing to cut back on carbs and work on her body (I’ll leave it at that), Teresa Giudice is actually following our recommendation to use the time prior to prison to make a plan to help make the most of the time behind bars. And while her plans are somewhat shallow, they are plans and, if she chooses to follow through with them, should help her be productive in prison. I don’t usually promote the reality TV genre, but in this case it was too good to pass up. You won’t see this too often, so get what you can out of it.

Journal Entry – 3/29/12 – FCI Elkton – Feeling sad today…

From my prison journal (18 months in):

Feeling sad today about not getting letters and visits from many of he folks who stayed in touch the first year or so. It’s not that I feel neglected or rejected. It’s more that I miss the connections and relationship that come with communicating with them. I am grateful that they still care and pray for me. I am confident most of the still do. Maybe when I get down to Petersburg, VA it will pick up. Or, maybe God has another plan. 

Prison, like life, is a series of ups and downs. A real roller coaster ride. There are periods of peace and periods of stress, loneliness and sadness. This day I was probably feeling a little sorry for myself. Writing it down helped me put it in perspective and realize that even if no one writes me, I still have God. We all desire relationships, that is how God made us. There are times where I felt alone. When I did I would try to pick up my Bible or some other faith-centered book and try to focus on my relationship with God. I also prayed a lot and would pick up the phone and call Lisa as well. I am so grateful for Lisa and her support of me during the 5 years I spent in prison. She did her own time in her own prison of separation. I’m so grateful we prepared for prison with counseling and continued to practice being open and honest in our communications. It sure made the time more bearable and was a huge factor in keeping our marriage together. I strongly recommend using whatever time you have prior to prison to strengthen your relationships.

Parents in Prison

One of the saddest things I watched in prison was the disintegration of a family. It happened far too regularly and to people of all ages, race and background. One of the goals we have with the Paul Project is to help people maintain their relationships through the prison experience. It is possible. But it takes honesty, work and communication. This article (http://family-studies.org/when-an-imprisoned-parent-isnt-home-for-the-holidays/) highlights the struggles inherent in having one or more parents in prison. For me one of the stats that is most destructive is that close to six in ten incarcerated parents had no personal visits from any of their children in 2010. 84% of parents in federal prisons are held over 100 miles away from their last residence, and 43% over 500 miles away. I saw this first-hand as I spent 5 years in two different prisons and met men who were hundreds of miles away from their families, making it impossible for visits. This i one area I would like to see changed in the Federal system. I would like to make it a requirement that you can’t be placed further than 100 miles from your home.

Video – Five years in prison

I ran across this interesting interview with a guy who spent five years in the Colorado state prison system. It sounds like he was able to use the time productively and to improve himself. It is possible to come out of prison in better shape physically, mentally and spiritually than when you entered.

http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/2014/12/28/colorado-prison-system-experience/20983441/

Questions About Prison – “Were you afraid of getting hurt in prison?”

shoulderthrow1I’ll be answering questions we’ve been asked about preparing for prison and doing time. If you have questions you can send them to us at david@paulproject.org and we’ll do our best to answer them. One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Were you ever afraid you would get hurt in prison?” To be honest, yes, there were times I was fearful for my safety. This was usually around one of my transfers where I was exposed to a new environment, new people and new stressors. But as time went by I learned to put my trust in the Lord and have faith that no matter what happened I would be OK. Even if I was assaulted, I could survive. I did see some people get hurt in fights. But most altercations are avoidable if you avoid getting involved in things like drugs, sex, gambling and even trying to control the TV. One study states that about 7 percent of inmates reported being injured in a fight. So it does happen, but not as often as many think. And the risk is higher as you increase the custody level. It doesn’t hurt to get into shape and bone up on some self defense before you enter prison. If nothing else, it will help you feel more confident.

I’ll continue to answer questions along the way and welcome your queries. Take care and God bless.

David Chatham

Forgiveness

bible-god-quotes-54There’s a song by Matthew West entitled “Forgiveness” that captures the true struggle it is to forgive, even those we love. The song goes, in part:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness (http://youtu.be/n9J6xOT3Ldw) – Forgiveness Video

For those with family members facing prison it is probably one of the hardest things you’ll be asked to do. There is so much pain, anger, resentment and sometimes even hate caused by our crimes and their impact on our families. But the first step to surviving the prison experience is to forgive what at times seems like the unforgivable.

And for the one facing prison there is often an urge to blame others for our situation. Whether it is law enforcement, a family member, a “snitch” or someone else, we also must learn to forgive. One person we also need to forgive is ourselves. But the only way we can and should do this is after we’ve accepted full responsibility for our actions and are working to repent of them. Repentance means to turn our back on old behavior and start in a new direction. This repentance is what will ultimately allow those who love us to forgive us.

Another quote on forgiveness, also in the song above is from Lewis B. Smedes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner is you.” Whether you are behind bars or know someone behind bars, forgiveness frees you from the prison of bitterness and allows you to move forward. God bless you!

David Chatham

A New Beginning

new beginning in prisonIf you’ve read a little about our story you know that Federal agents knocked on our door at about 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2008. That knock rocked our world and changed our lives forever. The strange thing is, it has changed it for the better. While I’ll always regret the pain and hurt I’ve caused my wife, family and friends, I’ll always be grateful for the fact that God used this time to begin a transformation in me, our marriage and our families. If only we had known then what we know now, that it was not the end of the world, but a new beginning.

I was always fearful of getting caught. I had great shame, guilt and fear on a daily basis. That led to my lashing out at those closest to me. Looking back it is hard to believe I was that man. But it is true, I was a selfish, self-centered person bent only on my own pleasure. That knock on the door was the beginning of the end of that man and the start of a new life.

But we could have chosen to act on our fears and ignore the lessons and opportunities I believe God put in front of us. If you are in the middle of a similar experience, I encourage you to stay strong, don’t give up on yourself, your relationships or on God. As it says in Romans 8:28, “All things come together for the good for those who love the Lord and live according to His purpose.” We are a living testimony to this. Don’t surrender to your fears and the unknown. We are here to help you. Please reach out to us – david@paulproject.org.

Prison Journal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were many experiences and events that took place during my five years in prison that impacted my life. In an effort to remember these I started to journal. At first it was just about recording my walking and exercise, but quickly became an outlet for recording my joys, fears, hopes and frustrations. I strongly recommend keeping a journal of your experiences in prison. It helped me keep things in perspective and to put into words some things that I couldn’t seem to explain to my wife and others, at least in a way they could understand. I’ll be sharing some of my journal entries through this blog. I hope you will find them helpful, insightful and encouraging.

Christmas in Prison – Part II

PRISONERSI spent five Christmases in prison and each one was emotional and filled with joy, regret and hope. Joy for what Christ did for me in coming to earth to save us. Regret for all of the people I hurt over the years I lived so selfishly. And hope for the future, that God has a plan for me, to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Most Christmases in prison were spent watching TV, reading, calling Lisa and other family and in worship. I found it was better to be busy and focused on the positive. I would also give small gifts to the few friends I made in prison. They weren’t much, a t-shirt, a candy bar and a card, but it helped us to feel a connection to something bigger than ourselves. I also tried to anonymously give a small care package of food and toiletries to a brother in need.

My calls to Lisa were both joyous and sad. It was nice to hear her voice and know she was still supporting me. But it was tough hearing her and other family members celebrating without me. I just prayed for their joy and peace. It isn’t about me anymore. In my previous life it was ALL about me. In prison, I learned the joy that comes with putting others first.

This year is my first Christmas out of prison and for that I am so grateful. I think about those still in prison (and their families) and pray for them to find peace and joy in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!! (Luke 2:1-20)

Get Hard – Will Ferrell prepares for prison

shawshank paul projecthttp://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-get-hard-trailer-kevin-hart-and-will-ferrell-prepare-for-prison-20141219-story.html

OK, this is not an endorsement of this movie (I actually don’t agree with the language in the trailer), but I did find it interesting that the movie is coming out early next year just as the Paul Project is ramping up. I’m curious to see how the film depicts preparing for prison. From the trailer, it will be a mix of stereotypes and exaggerations, but we’ll see. From my experience, prison is nothing like it is portrayed in the movies or on TV. Whether it is Shawshank Redemption of Prison Break, most of the information is exaggerated or sensationalized. Now don’t get me wrong, there is violence and danger in prison,  but if you avoid getting involved in gambling, drugs, alcohol, stealing and sexual activity you will likely make it out unscathed. So don’t let movies like Get Hard be your guide in preparing for prison