A Stevenson First

I am at the Stevenson Unit my first day, and I get off the bus, and I notice right away that it’s really clean down here. Of course, we have to strip out again, but by now, I’m used to this. Then, we go and wait in the cage at the line building all day long, waiting to get a housing assignment. We have to go before Unit Classification Committee, since we’re new at the unit, but before they make us go, they send us to the laundry to get our clothes and bedding, and we check in at medical to make sure we haven’t had a life-threatening illness while on the bus, I guess. To complete the fun, Ms. Ordonez, the unit property officer, goes through all my property, taking away anything she thinks I can’t have.

Like I said, I got a G-4 custody level assigment on my last unit for fighting. Let me tell you the rest of the story. I was sent to seg for the fighting, and while there, I was trying to take a shower and shave my face. The guard gives me my little green bar of soap and a razor. I’m already in the shower, and I drop the razor. It falls outside the cage door, and I can’t reach it. I told the guard, “I dropped my razor. Can I get another one or can you hand me that one on the floor?” He smashed it with his boot and told me, “You should be more careful.”And instead of giving me another razor, he actually writes me a case for not being clean shaven. Since I was already segged, this case went major, and that’s two major cases in two days. I get back to my cell, wanting to write a letter to my sister explaining the situation to her and wanting to vent a little bit. I only have three sheets of paper to my name.

I don’t know if you’ve ever spilled freeze dried coffee on a piece of paper. I have. On the one I was using to write my sister, as a matter of fact. It starts to melt when the humidity hits it and turns to black goo. It was just a little bit on the bottom of the sheet, but it stuck the paper together like glue. I had to pull them apart. When I got done with my letter, there were these two little black spots. I circle them and write, “Boogers for your lips! LOL!”

What I am about to tell you is top secret, and it can never get out. If it does, I’ll come and find you. I’ll also deny it and say I don’t know what you’re talking about. My sister and I always had nicknames for each other growing up. When we were small, we made them up to make each other mad, but eventually, they just stuck. My sister is “Booger Lips”, because she once had fever blisters really bad. They looked like boogers. I am called “Kissy Face”, because I have a lot of freckles. Perhaps you’ve heard about angel kisses causing freckles?

Please keep this to yourself. I can’t tell you the hell I’d catch if that got out while I’m still locked up in prison. I can’t trade “Bulldog” for “Kissy Face”. It would ruin me. Anyway, I put this letter in the mailbox, and later that day, the major shows up and he brings the captain along with him. They question me about “the stuff at the bottom of the letter”. I told them it was coffee, but they didn’t believe me. I guess they think I actually put some boogers on this paper and sent it out, and they actually write me ANOTHER major case. That, my friends, is three in three days. That is how I got G-4ed.

As I am sitting in my cell, I am praying, really just questioning God on all this. I tell Him, “You know I didn’t do all this.” I explain how they are lying, and I beg Him to please, PLEASE help me and let this cup pass from me. But, I said, let Your will be done, and I left it in His hands. God knows what He is doing. He sees the bigger picture even when we think we know what’s best. As I am sitting in my cell, I am praying, really just questioning God on all this. I tell Him, “You know I didn’t do all this.” I explain how they are lying, and I beg Him to please, PLEASE help me and let this cup pass from me. But, I said, let Your will be done, and I left it in His hands. God knows what He is doing. He sees the bigger picture even when we think we know what’s best.

I was waiting to go before Unit Classification Committee after I arrived on the Stevenson Unit. You have to do this to get your housing and custody level. They called me in, and I explained the story of all that had happened. They said that they agreed with me, that those cases were bogus, so they throw out two of them, and let the fight case stick, because it was legit. They recommend I get a G-2, which is general population. I was so excited, all I could do was praise God, and really, I wasn’t even a Christian- not really in my heart, anyways. But like I said, God knew what He was doing.

I was housed in J-4 building. I thought it would be the place where all the knuckleheads go, but no. I got sent to a good wing. When I get there, there are good Chritian brothers that have a Bible study going. I join them and start attending their little group. I also start going to church, but I’m still just playing. All this time, though, God is planting seeds, and each time, these seeds are landing closer and closer to fertile soil. Eventually, they take root and grow and produce fruit.

About this time, I start nearing my first parole review date, so I am doing my best to stay out of trouble or at least my best not to get caught. You know the ol’ saying, “Be good, or be good at it.” I also get into a plumbing vocation class, and that was great. I really learn a lot. The class is taught by Mr. Maddox, and he’s a great teacher. He was always pushing us to better ourselves.

I finally see parole, but at the time, I was still a Line Class 2. You’re supposed to be a Line Class 1 or better to make parole. I sign up for the Faith-based dorm, and get in within a week, which was a miracle. God still knows what’ s He’s doing. Even though I got in, I’d lied to the chaplain about why I wanted to be in there somewhat. Let’s just say that I stretched the truth and told them what I thought they wanted to hear, because I went from being in the 70s on the waiting list to getting moved in. My main motive was that I’d heard being in the dorm looked good on your parole review. It’s supposed to increase your chances by 30%. Now, whether or not that’s true, I don’t know. Like I said, I’d just seen parole, so I was trying anything I could to try to sway their decision in my favor. Well, it didn't work. They gave me a three-year set off. Man, it floored me. I was completely heart-broken. I was also shocked and angry. So many emotions ran through my head, I didn’t know what to do. Looking back, I can see it was a blessing from God, but at the time, I just went back to my cubicle and cried. I prayed to God for comfort, strength, wisdom, guidance on what to do next. The thing that hurt me so much about the set off was how it was going to adversely affect my family. I’d already hurt them so much just by coming to prison, I didn’t want to hurt them anymore by giving them the news that I wasn’t going to be coming home any time soon. I could have handled a shorter, one-year set off a lot easier, I think. In fact, it’s really what I’d expected.

I used that dread, that hurt, that shame that I felt towards my family, and I decided to quit playing church. I finally decided, once and for all, that I’d get right with God- to really, truly give my life to Him.

You see, I thought I was getting over on the system by lying my way into the faith-based dorm, but now I know, God was getting over on me! This was in His plan all along. He’d ordained this from the beginning. He knew what it was going to take to get me. A lot of the same brothers I’d lived within the building ended up moving out to the dorm, so I had an instant bond with them. When they saw me move in, I knew they were skeptical of why I was really there, and they had every right to be, because I never gave them any reason to believe I really wanted to change. I knew in my heart something had already taken place, and I wanted to prove it to everyone else, too. I really used and took advantage of the program, but this time, in a good way! I paid attention in class. I was really hungry for the Word. I attended Bible studies. I went to all the services. I joined the Baptist choir and was asked to sing on the praise team in other services. I wanted to do everything I could for God. I was growing through the love and care and guidance of the awesome brothers I was around. The volunteers were great, too. They took their time to come up to the unit and be God’s hands and feet. They loved each of us, and truly cared for us. They wanted us to change and come out of prison better men. And I believe that anyone who really takes this program to heart and uses it to their advantage, will.

I am SO grateful I got that three-year set off. Now, I know that if I would have made parole and went home, I would have come back in here again to finish out my sentence or worse, with more time. I would have hurt my kids and my family all over again, and eventually, they probably would have hardened their hearts towards me. I know as it stands right now, God has restored my family back to me. I have said all along, Misty has never left me completely in the dark. There has always been some kind of communication between us. I know it’s God who has had His hand on our lives. She even has her phone set up to where I get to talk to the kids once a week if I have money on the phone. Some times, my cousin sends me money, and I will put half of whatever she sends on my phone.

My cousin Kellye is the only one of my family members who looks out for me. She has been with me through this whole thing, and I’m so grateful for her. I know God will bless her for blessing me. Misty, too, will put money on the phone when she is able, and I’m thankful for her. She sends pictures and cards at holidays and stuff. Now, sometimes, she is slow about it, and it takes two weeks to a month to get it, but.... I know she is busy, though, and has a lot on her plate, especially being a single mom of two. Both kids are active in sports and school. My son, Payton, will be 14 on March 3rd, so you can imagine how that’s going. He plays football, basketball, cross country, and baseball. He is also first chair trumpet in the band and made the Regional Band. His sister, Taryn will be 12 on July 26th. She is a cheerleader, gymnast, basketball player, volleyball guru. They are both so talented, and I am very proud of them. I can’t wait to get home to be with them.

Speaking of which, I made parole! I received an FI-4 (a parole conditional upon the completion of a 4-month long program) and my program starts in March, so I won’t be here on the Stevenson much longer. To show you how God works, I’m paroling to Misty and the kid’s house! I have always known there was a reason He has kept us together.

Now, I’m not so naive as to think that I’ll get out, and we’ll just pick up where we left off all those years ago. We still have to get to know each other again. We’ve both changed and grown up. But, I want us to be for life. It’s not just something I want to do for a while. I want to grow old with this woman I’m in love with. I know that she was in love with me once before, and I know it can happen again. I also want her to fall in love with Jesus in me. Christ lives in me now, and if I keep Him at the head of everything I do, I will never fail. Through Him, all things are possible.

In closing, I pray you never have to come to prison, but if you do, please do all you can to reform. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. Trust Him to guide and protect you through this. Christ is always right there waiting, and no matter what you’ve done, all you have to do is reach out to Him, and there He is.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez