I felt God encourage me to do something good after a fellow inmate criticized a block officer. I thought Guy (not his real name) had successfully clarified his comment after the officer asked “What did you say to me?” Nevertheless, I suspected he might snipe at the officer until finally sentenced to the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU).
Therefore, I wondered whether I should write Guy a warning. But I imagined many backfire scenarios. I did not want to be laughed at, and have rumors spread about me. So I prayed, “Lord, if Your Presence does not go with me, I’m not writing anything” (Exodus 33:15). When the idea of the note persisted, I did not move until the Lord nudged.
I got out of bed around 1:30 A.M., and I penned my sob story. I had been punished with sixty-three days in the RHU on a sixty-day sanction for something I did not do, simply because I helped a prisoner that the staff wanted to pick on. Upon RHU release, anxiety about the hardship placed on my family produced insomnia. The psychiatrist gave me a pill in his office. The effect was I could barely walk back to my housing unit. The psychiatrist had diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. Even though I had only taken that one pill, a few months later I was transferred to a Special Needs Unit for mentally challenged inmates in another prison. Sixteen months later I was shipped back because I was not paranoid schizophrenic.
Nevertheless, the injustice continued. I was banned from a Bible study, and put under an eighteen-month investigation of a false staff allegation. Although cleared, I have not been hired for any job for which I have applied. Over the last ten years staff have attacked my character with lies that I am gay, a child molester, and an informant. Staff have also set me up to be assaulted in the shower, and being robbed. But those plots failed. My prison record is now ruined. I have no chance at commutation of my life sentence.
Yet despite this environment, a block officer helped me. The one Guy criticized! Hence, I wrote Guy that I wanted to help the officer who had helped me, but I also wanted to help him. I concluded, “Why risk the RHU, and everything that goes with it, over gripes about the best officer by far?”
Around 8:30 A.M. I delivered what had become a letter. Hours later Guy thanked me. I was shocked. Still, it is wise for inmates to anticipate ill effects for good deeds, whether done for fellow prisoner or staff. Fortunately, Jesus said, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right….. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are me followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven” (Mathew 5:10-12, New Living Translation, 2007).
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can write to encourage my friend, Josoph Henry, an inmate at the State Correctional Institute at Dallas, PA. You must use a plain white envelope, and you must put his DOC # directly after his name on the first line of the address. You must use a return address, or it won’t be delivered to him…but, if you prefer, you can use my ministry return address: Prison Mentoring, Box 310, Hilltown, PA 18927
Josoph Henry, AS1498 SCI Dallas 1000 Follies Road Dallas, PA 18612