Here’s an excerpt from my new book SECOND CHANCES that might give a glimpse of what that first day’s experience is – or at least – was for me. We all make mistakes, but as I was told – “You’ve made a big mistake, but YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE!” Those words were powerful and in many ways saved my life.
Wesley’s life is powerful and it is my hope that Wesley can move past the feeling that he’s somehow a victim, to the recognition that all thing happen for our good if only we will become still enough and reflect inward enough to find it. Here’s to Wesley’s time – may it be beneficial to him and may he use it and his celebrity to bring light and love to others.
SECOND CHANCES EXCERPT:
By 3:25 p.m., I had been fully processed and was escorted to my cell, my new home. As I entered the cell, my cell mate, Buck, an African-American man of mid-stature, walked out. He gave me a quick once-over, never uttering a word. By this time, I had been instructed to change into my prison uniform and be prepared for “count time” at 4:00 p.m. I guess that meant something to most people, but it didn’t connect with me. Doing as I was told, I changed and sat on the bed assigned, waiting for further instructions.
At three minutes to 4:00 p.m., Buck reentered the cell. He just looked at me again─sizing me up, I suppose. Then a noise broke the chatter of inmates in this area.
“Count time. Count time.”
Again, Buck looked at me, pointing at the floor as if I knew what to do. I stood up just as the guard passed by our cell, counting each inmate as we stood in silence. I watched others, waiting for a cue as to what to do next. When the count was done, the chatter began, and once again, Buck left the room with no comments.
Seated on my excuse for a bed, I began to drift into a contemplative state. Now disconnected from all that I knew, all that was familiar, I was preparing to enter a part of life that would prove to be painful. And yet, it was an opportunity for accelerated growth. We all have thoughts, beliefs, and associations; we interpret and make judgments. I did not, at that moment, think of prison as a place for growth; rather, it was a place of dread, a place to be endured. I would assume that most people feel that the consequences they face, especially if they judge them to be negative consequences, are unwanted and carry no benefit other than pain. Yet, through experience─my own as well as what is reported by others─often the worst experiences we face are our greatest teachers if we are open to allowing the lesson.
As the first night began to pass, I can’t say my first day in prison was fraught with any danger. I was just a number. I was another person placed somewhere where he didn’t want to be, dealing with the internal issues of doing time for something and learning in a new and unfamiliar environment. Staring at the ceiling of the cell and trying to get warm under the prison-issued sheet and blanket, I wondered if there was ever a time when the choices I made were worth the price.
My eyes welling with tears, but crying my first night was not an option. Before the crack of dawn on day two, the guards banged on the door to the unit and began flashing on the lights. Buck was immediately out of bed as the workday began. I, on the other hand, was bewildered. I suppose I expected prison to be a place where you stayed in your bed until you wanted to get up, did nothing, and did nothing some more.
Buck looked up at me, as I was on the top bunk. “You better get up and get out of here before 8:00 a.m. or the ‘hacks’ will put you to work.” With those words, Buck was off to his job.
It was 6:45 a.m.
Well, he talks, I thought to myself, not knowing what to do. Just then, the silence was broken. Another inmate, a middle-aged guy, poked his head around the corner.
“You eat?” he asked with a tentative look on his face, as if he might have disturbed me.
“Your first day here?”
“Yeah,” I replied, honestly glad to have someone who showed some interest. Not that I expected a welcoming party, but rarely had I ever been somewhere where you were looked right through, as if you were nobody. Perhaps it was learned behavior, but even in the “projects,” people seemed to have some basic level of respect and concern. Yet, except for the African-American guy from yesterday, no one seemed to care. Well, not until now.
“Chuck,” I replied. He offered no hand, and neither did I. I had already made up my mind that I would observe and take my lead from others who had been here awhile. I did not know the ropes, and being a leader in prison was not something I had ever aspired to.
“Follow me. Let’s get some breakfast.” With that, Ham moved out, expecting me to follow. “Now, don’t expect much. You know, the inmates do the cooking around here. The breakfast bunch, well, they ain’t the best. The dinner cooks, well, that’s another story. They’re pretty good. We’ll get some good chow at night.”
WHAT’S WESLEY’S FIRST DAY LIKE…
Well..in the case of “Blade” I suspect that it was a mixture of celebrity, concern and disconnection. Prison (minimum security or not) is prison and it is different. This morning Wesley Snipes had his first prison breakfast and many eyes are on him as he begins this new journey in his life. Perhaps we can put aside our feelings of his guilt or innocence or feelings of appropriateness of his sentence and join to wish him well…
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!