Article – Surviving Prison


An interesting article on the Marshall Project in NY State. The program is designed to help individuals survive in prison. This one is more about physical survival than our focus, which is more about using the time to improve one’s self. But it does offer some relevant advice as it is difficult to work on improving yourself if you are fearful for your safety. The article works to connect the program’s premise to business. It isn’t a tough stretch. I always thought it might be interesting to write a book like – “Everything I Needed to Know about Business I learned in Prison”


Prison Journal Entry – August 8, 2011

crampedapartmentThis is an entry from my journal during my time at FCI Elkton:

Quiet day. Our new cellie, Gene, moved into our cube. Amazing how one additional body makes an 8′ x 10′ cube feel like a shoe box. I offered to have him sit on my bed when he needs to. I know I hated when I was on the top bunk and never had a place to sit down. 

Lisa sounded good. Just a quick chat today. I love and miss her so much. Sad I may not see her again next year. But I am grateful for our time together. 

Personal space is at a minimum in prison. You have your bunk and a locker and that’s really it. There are very few places you can go for any kind of privacy. The bathroom stall is about as close as you get to being alone and then it doesn’t have a lock on it (if you happen to have one with a door). At FCC Petersburg we actually had our own chairs, which made it easier to find a place to sit. One thing I had to get use to was there is nothing soft in prison. We’re talking concrete, steel and plastic. Even the mattresses are plastic. I will never again take for granted upholstered furniture!!

Prison Program – Transforming trauma into hope

Leadership-and-personal-transformationI ran across this interesting program sponsored by the Urban Faith ministry. I don’t know a lot about this organization, but this particular program looks like it has some real value and offers hope and structure for those in prison. Both of which are critical in creating an environment where you can thrive, not just survive. Here are the 8 steps in the program. I especially relate to the character reformation. This is truly where God has transformed me. I went from a man of dishonor, to a man striving for honor and integrity. I hope you are able to experience this same transformation in your prison experience.

  1. Awakenings: Enhancing Spiritual Wholeness. Awakenings helps participants find meaning from their experiences, confronting thoughts and habits that contribute to current beliefs and behavior.
  2. Building Community helps participants learn to resolve conflicts in constructive and meaningful ways and to gain “faith solutions to life’s trials and conflicts.”
  3. Character Reformation is a time set aside to address how one’s thoughts and attitudes can themselves perpetuate negative circumstances and interactions.
  4. Daily Family Meetings contribute to participants’ sense of belonging and help foster abiding relationships within family groups.
  5. Faith Fundamentals shore up the foundations of participants’ spiritual beliefs and offers the building blocks for a committed faith.
  6. Outside Brothers meet with participants to connect them with the outside community in solid, caring one-on-one relationships.
  7. The Trauma/Healing Awareness Workshop allows participants to examine how trauma has affected their lives, and about breaking the trauma cycle.
  8. Victim Awareness gives participants the opportunity to reflect on the effects of various crimes on victims, their families, and their communities.

Journal entry – 6/10/2011- Average day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother entry from my prison journal from FCI Elkton:

Low-key day. Nothing too extraordinary. Feel pretty good. Grateful for everything God provides. I had good talk with Brian (friend). Very grateful for his friendship.

Haven’t talked to Lisa yet today.

I’ve been trying to avoid negative people. They seem to be everywhere here. So many people just don’t have Christ and are unhappy. I think they would be unhappy even if they weren’t in prison. They are missing the peace that with a relationship with God.

Praise God!!

Comment (2/19/15) – I had many days like this in prison. Especially after the first year or so. After a while I began to see that I can be content no matter my circumstance (Phil. 4:11). That I can use the time for something positive and that there are opportunities to help others and get out of my own head. Also, I appreciated having one or two friends with whom I could talk about things going on outside and in. I didn’t trust many people, but did find a couple on which I could depend.

8 works of literature written in prison

progressInteresting article about 8 works of literature written by men in prison. I certainly don’t agree with numbers 5 and 7, as they go against my values and faith. And I love that they included number 4, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, one of my favorite books  The 8 authors are Martin Luther King Jr., Marco Polo, Nelson Mandela, John Bunyan, Adolf Hitler, Sir Thomas Malory, Marquis de Sade, Boethius. Another author who did much writing in prison, and who I highly recommend, is Deitrich Bonhoeffer. He is an incredible theologian, pastor and Christian.

I thought I might work on a book while I was doing my time. But I decided to wait until I got out in order to have a much fuller perspective of the experience and not be colored by the environment. I did keep a journal and used the time to gain insight into who I was and who God wanted me to be. I highly suggest using your sentence to do the same. You will come out of it with a much clearer understanding of yourself and those around you.

Article – How my life as an entrepreneur shaped my time in prison

entrepreneur magazine

I ran across this Entrepreneur magazine article from a guy who spent a couple of years in prison and used the skills he had learned in starting up a business to help him maximize his time in prison. From my experience, he makes some good points. I especially agree with his point around time management. Effective use of time is a critical part of redeeming your time in prison. Here is the link to the article:

Questions for the Paul Project

prisoners_watching_tvThe idea of starting the Paul Project was first sparked by our experiencing the fear of the unknown as we faced our own prison sentence. What fueled it was corresponding with a man facing a 10-year sentence. In a number of letters he sent me probably two dozen questions about what to expect in prison. As I responded to his questions he expressed his gratitude and let me know how helpful and comforting it was to have a clearer picture of what he might face. As I mentioned before, I’ll be answering his questions from time to time.

One question he had was around prison rules, both written and unwritten. I may post a few pages of one of the rules documents once I get it digitized. It would be an understatement to say that there are many written rules for each facility. And while the basic rules are the same, each compound does operate differently. There is very little orientation conducted so most of the time you’re going to be learning as you go. I asked a lot of questions and found guys who were willing to guide me through my first months. There are rules about counts, movement, contraband, drugs, alcohol, sexual activity, ID cards, mail, education, visiting, laundry, and much more.

Some unwritten rules relate to dealing with other inmates. For example, in a TV room seats are usually selected based on seniority. If someone has “claimed” a seat and you’re in it, unless you are willing to fight for it, you better move on. And unless you have a majority of guys behind you (or some juice) don’t even think about turning the channel. I’ve seen more fights over TV in prison than I have over anything else.

While there is a lot to learn when you get to prison, it is important to understand the written and unwritten rules as soon as possible. It will save you a lot of stress, and help you avoid potential physical threats and time in the hole.

Facing the Fear of Going to Prison

overcoming-fearI’ve been corresponding with the mother of a man facing 25 years to life in prison. Her son is awaiting trial and is feeling a great deal of fear. I can relate. Those 9 months between the time I was investigated and the time I was taken into custody were so stressful for me, my wife and are families. Like this woman’s son, because of my fear I lashed out in anger at those closest to me, especially my wife. But I learned that I can be forgiven for all that I did and that what really matters is what I do with that forgiveness. Do I honor it with my actions? Or do I continue in the behavior that got me here?

Ultimately, it was up to me to use the opportunity of prison to become a man of honor and integrity. And prison really was an opportunity. How many people are able to escape the distractions and desires of the world and have the time to focus on becoming a better person. To study. To grow in body, mind and spirit. While I will never be pleased with what I did to get to prison, I will always be grateful for the time God gave me to focus on His word and serving those around me. As I told someone the other day, prison was a foreign land for me, it was a mission field.

So the fear you are feeling is normal and part of the process. But it does not have to paralyze you. You can move forward and prepare for the years ahead of you. You can use prison for the good. But it is an intentional decision. And the sooner you make that commitment, the easier it will be to follow through on it.