Run, don’t walk

Joey Garcia

I am a retired female correctional officer who disapproves of the encouragement you gave the woman in love with an inmate. My advice to women writing to, dating or marrying an inmate/ex-con: DON’T. RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Find a nice man on the outside with ambition, integrity and a good job, who loves his family and is kind to children, animals and your family. This type of man is not in prison, but heartache stories are: a female lieutenant who took in an inmate, only to have him steal everything she had; the young, attractive officer who harbored a parolee and is now without a job and facing charges; or the cook and secretary who lost jobs due to “over-familiarization”. Inmates have masturbated in front of me and stalked me. They have handed me their phone numbers and promised “a good time.” Lies and verbal abuse were daily problems. You had the power to tell this woman to dump this dude. Instead, you were weak. Reality: hitch up with an inmate and you’ll never be free.

Is exaggeration a form of lying? To call what I wrote encouragement is an exaggeration. Remember, she believed that her relationship was perfect and was writing in for advice about their first face-to-face meeting. Telling her to dump him would seem, to her, ridiculous. I stand by my advice of cautioning her to wait, observe and investigate his past herself. Knowing the truth is freedom.

It’s rare to have a successful romantic relationship with an ex-con, but it’s possible. I do know a couple of success stories. Clearly, though, you’ve seen a lot. So have I. As a teenager working in department stores, I witnessed plenty of seemingly nice, ambitious self-described spiritual men handing their phone numbers to single and married women, promising them “a good time.” I’ve known ambitious young men with good jobs who were kind to everyone and appeared to have integrity, yet practiced what is now known as date rape. In my 20s, I had high-level corporate jobs and once walked past the office of a vice president who was at his desk, masturbating. He frequently talked about sexual fantasies. Lies and verbal abuse were problems in the corporate arena. I’ve also known plenty of people who have been stalked by their former love interests, few of whom seemed like “the stalking type.” I’ve known about sweet people who have stolen thousands of dollars from their churches and employers. None of these people were or are in prison. These behaviors are prevalent in our culture.

Friends employed in corrections tell me that there are occasionally a few inmates who are different and who do make it. I believe in God, so I believe in the human potential for transformation. But I also understand the human potential to consistently turn away from good, so I am grateful that you shared that perspective.

My teenage son smokes cigarettes and nothing I say or do makes him quit. Ideas?

Yes. A woman once brought her son to see Gandhi. “Mahatma-ji, tell my son to stop eating sugar. It is not good for him.” Gandhi said, “Return in a week’s time.” The next week Gandhi faced the boy and said, “Stop eating sugar.” Perplexed, the woman asked Gandhi why he didn’t do that earlier. Gandhi replied, “Because at that time I had not given up sugar.” When we talked by phone, you admitted that your husband smokes. He must quit. Ditto for parents who drink alcohol to relax, but want their kids to stop using drugs.

Meditation of the week
“God and the Devil are struggling for the soul of man,” Dostoyevsky wrote, “and the battleground is the human heart.” No! The heart pumps blood. The real battleground is the mind. Shall it move toward godly consciousness or ungodly denial of consciousness?

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