Thursday, October 13, 2016


I remember being a boy in northern Michigan.  We had these massive bee-hives that hung from tree branches and abandoned buildings.  The bees  that made these paper nests were called bald-faced hornets.

I'd say they pack the same punch as a rattle-snake, you just catch a lower dose.  Their sting will literally paralyze you and they will chase  you for miles.  Our stupid asses would throw rocks at them and then run like hell.  They always got you, and it felt like someone jabbed a dart into your skin. Then came the burning site sensation that would swell, fester and last for hours.

That boy grew into a man.  I chuckle to think back at that silly boy, then realize us adults still do the same dumb shit.  I still throw some rocks then run like hell.  The sting we feel hurts more and lasts longer than the bees ever did.

That boy never stopped to consider that was the bee's home.  They were just in there, chillin', doin' what bees do.  We came along and knocked their happy  homestead on the ground.  No wonder they got so upset.  The boys grew into men and still forgot to consider what happens when you fire shots at unsuspecting targets.

I'm not talking about bees anymore.  I refer to lives and feelings and someone's heart.  I married a woman when I was 19.  When we divorced eight years later, she told me that one day she hoped someone would come along and crush me the way I did her!  I've managed to avoid that because I've installed a "Trump" size wall around my heart.  I've always been the one throwing rocks, and never had anyone get inside enough to knock down my happy place.

I've been doing this prison thing for eight years.  This place starts to get under your skin.

If you use the same washer at the laundromat every week on Tuesday and one day you come in and someone else is using that washer, what happens?   What about that parking space you like so much in front of your job?  You park there every day but today someone else parked there.  One person just moves to the next washer, or just uses another parking spot.  But that likely affects yet another person.

What if you parked in that spot for eight years?  What if you used that washer on the same day for 8 years?  It's not your washer anymore than it's your parking spot.  We somehow get all in our emotions over this shit.  I use this reference because I'm trying to ask you to understand my mind.

Lately I have been asking a woman to understand.  I don't think she does.  It frustrates me and even more so, when I had to realize I let someone scale the "Trump" wall.  Instead of simply walking away like I usually do, or run, for that matter,  I;m just standing here and the bees are coming and the sting hurts like hell.

I feel a loss of direction.  What's up?  What's down?  It's a lot to sort out.  Someone has been here for a long time and now they're leaving.  I've been sleeping in the same house for eight years, ten when I am done and then I'm moving back to someones else's house.  It's unfair for me to ask people to sit around and wait for me to see the end picture.  My end zone comes into play in two years.  I can't call that two years from now any more than I can call it today.

To any woman who ever wished some dude would one day feel their pain, don't worry---he will!!
Somewhere, someplace, sometime.

Once  upon a time there was a boy without a care in the world.  Throwing rocks at a beehive.......

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


The rotation of earth with the moon creates the tides. The tides change as water rushes out to sea. There, the process is reversed and you experience the high-tide as once again the water rushes back in. Thus creating the circle of life.

The laws I've  broken over a decade ago set things into motion that would change the man I am today.  If time indeed heals the broken heart, I pray it can bring peace to the people I have hurt in my life.

They sentence people to prison in an attempt to remove them from society and punish them.  Hoping that in the end if the punishment fits the crime, the offense will not be repeated.   There are other things that consequently can happen to that person as well. Things that make silly boys into hard men.

If you ask a prisoner what their biggest dream is, nine times out of ten, they will tell you freedom. Freedom for me is:  sitting with my family together at a Thanksgiving meal, taking my daughter to a concert, watching my nieces and nephews play in the yard while the adults grill out, or blasting down the road on my Harley.

Being free once again consumes me.  I feel like the benched player that raises his hand to the coach, begging to be put in the game.

I have trained my mind that I am no longer an addict.  I have worked out five days a week for nearly a decade to stay in shape.

Some people think 40 is cresting some hill as though your life has neared the end, For me, "40" is my starting line.

I don't want to have my car drive itself, I want control of the wheel. I want to take back the wheel of my life as well.  I want the opportunity to wake up and choose what I want to eat for breakfast.

Prison has caused me to learn to cut the strings.  I don't live by my heart, I live by my gut and cat senses.  I have to remind myself to show heart to people because prison has made me a cold man in many cases. That's the side effect of living in a very cold world for 10 years.

I thought I could completely beat this place.  Unfortunately while doing this amount of time, it's now inside me.  I remind myself that if time can heal a broken heart, then time may also reverse the effects of this place on me.

Prison knows heartbreak.  It doesn't know emotion.  It will chew you up and spit you out over and over.  In prison you live by a code.  Respect!  You prove your respect and loyalty to the men here. When your friend gets his shit stolen and his ass kicked, will you stand in the paint beside him?  If you do, then he owes you the same.  Thus a bond is created.

I have family back here that isn't my blood, and I have blood out there that isn't my family.

I call home every week to ask my mom to tell me the newest news on each of my brothers and sisters because I care.  I live a life where I'm out of sight, and out of mind.  Nobody owes me anything, but I've been watching.......

Those people who have stayed at arms length from me while I was gone can expect the same, once I'm released.  "You" didn't stand in the paint beside me.  When my life was taken and I was left standing beside a cold concrete wall on the wrong side of the fence, I felt alone.

If your just reading these words, you have somehow cared more than most and I feel you standing beside me.

Thank you,

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tunnel Vision

Watching my daughter turn 19, wishing I could turn 40 already and seeing the light at the end of this tunnel finally.  The finish line begins to come into focus and I'm realizing it's time for me to begin to shift gears

I've lived here with the attitude of "when in Rome, do as the Romans"...  It's saved my life and carried me through a dime in D.O.C. - Prison lingo- for ten years is a "dime" since it's worth 10 cents...

A soldier goes off to battle for 5 or 6 years and comes home diagnosed with PTSD and a multitude of other ticks and misfires..I've seen dudes cut, stabbed, beat near to death and hung.  You learn to simply walk past these scenarios if they don't involve you, so that they don't BEGIN to involve you.  I've seen racial hatred grow 10 fold over the past few years.  Then you have the gang wars and retaliation.  You learn to pick your battles since you may die in the process.  So was it REALLY worth it?  You ask yourself that everyday.

I find myself reading a chapter in my Bible every morning just to make certain my guardian angel has had her coffee and is read to tackle another day beside me.  I'm also pretty certain I'm going to obtain my medical-marijuana card once I'm home, so I can enjoy prescribed mental satisfaction.

I have enjoyed writing for this blog as it's a means to vent and stay connected.  Many of my friends and even family seldom write me, so this has become my message board to keep you informed that I'm still alive and half-sane.

I've learned a lot about myself in here.  I found how far I can bend without breaking.  People grow when they get pushed down.  A divorce, the loss of a loved one, a miscarriage.  Whatever the ordeal, it's these situations that create well rounded people who can stand tall when any kind of push comes to shove.  If you haven't been through much, good for you.  But you should probably seek out someone who has had their shit-hit-the-fan, as your go-too.

My little girl is 19.  She's finding her groove and walking out her own path.  I'm proud, she has one hell of a Daddy who has been there and done that.  I'm blessed she's OK with that, embraces it, and loves and respects me.

A special thanks to you readers who have followed my life on the jail-bird.  I intend to write more in an attempt to begin the transition back into society.

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Taylor Made

I sit here in prison and look back over my life.  The wild and crazy ride my life has been.  I have stated before that my daughter is by far the greatest accomplishment I have ever taken part in.  When I see her take her journey through life it's like watching a smaller, younger version of me.  I take pride knowing my blood pumps through her veins.  No one can take that away from me.

My little girl graduated this month.  I didn't do that.  My mother wasn't able to see me walk because I was expelled my senior year.  I'm now in prison and wasn't able to see my daughter graduate, but my mom did.  Mom say and saw her granddaughter walk in her cap and gown. This is one of those times that is indeed priceless.  Whether she knows it or not, my little girl just gave my mom and special memory.  I asked my mom to be my eyes and ears and to take pictures and bring me as close to the action as she could.

I have a great relationship with my daughter.  She knows I love her and that I'm proud of her.  The thing that scares me most is that I have two and half years here.  I told her the other day on the phone that I worry some boy will come along and steal her time away from me.  She laughed.

I have this dream she will still want to spend time with me when I get home.  That I can somehow take back all the lost years.  Perhaps I can give her back all those years I wasn't there in her life.  One thing is certain.... I'll spend the rest of my life cheering her on and being her biggest fan.

Being your daddy is the greatest gift God ever gave to me, Taylor.  You move me to be the best man I can be.  To never do wrong and to never have to leave again.  I love you from the bottom of my heart and always will.  Congratulations little lady!  You make me proud.

Your biggest fan,
Your dad

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Eighteen years ago I gave my daughter up for adoption.  At the time I was eighteen.  About six years ago, while here in prison, her mother contacted me.  She reached out and asked if I would come back into my daughter's life.  But, she under one circumstance.....if I stepped back into my little girls life, I had to never leave her again.  She said if I could come back and stay in her life, then I had her blessing. I don't know about other adoptions, but to me this was the gift of my life.  A second chance to be in my child's life.

I can't tell you how many times I look back over my life and see such a waste.  That is until I got my daughter back.  She is the best think I have every accomplished in 37 years of life.  Thank you Tami.

From this prison I have watched my sisters become mothers and my brothers become fathers.  They place pictures of me around their homes and point out to their kids who Uncle Mike (me) is.  They keep me alive because of their love for me. No matter my faults I am still big brother.  Thank you Abigail, Ester and Grace.

And my brothers, Aaron and Phillip, never forget what a privilege it is to be a dad.  I love you both.  And remember to appreciate and respect the woman who made your children with you.

To the woman who made me 37 years ago...I thank you for overlooking my faults and loving me unconditionally.  You have seen me become a moan.  You have watched me become a father to my daughter.  You are about to see me be set free.  I love you mom.

Since coming to prison, my most frequent visitor is my dad.  Driving nearly six hours one way to see me, then driving back at the end of visitation.  He comes here and I spend all his money on junk food while we laugh and enjoy our time.  We came a long way since I was a kid.  Thank you dad for loving me.

Last, but not least, to my lady.  She helps me do my time, she works full-time and is a mom.  But she has to do it all alone.  She will argue and say that I am in her heart and closer to her than most relationships.  My lady has been with me for several years and my head has never hit her pillow.  When this is said and done we will have been together nearly eight years.  About that time many people are getting divorced.  I will be putting a ring on her finger.  Thank you for choosing me.  I will make sure you never regret what you have sacrificed to wait for my return.  I love you more.

Please take some time to look at your own life.  Find the things your thankful for.  Let the people in your life know how much they mean.  Then send them a nice text to let them know how you're feeling.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy life, your children, your better half or maybe your lesser half.  Thank you for sharing a few minutes of your time with me and my thoughts.  May you and your family have a blessed holiday season.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Old School

There’s an old dude that sings a song about “keeping on rocking in the free world.” His name is Neil Young and he was some sort of a freedom-fighter in his day. I keep on tilling my own garden and blazing my own trail…… that doesn’t make a hero but rather, an individual. I prefer the term “independent”. 

While the other boys were playing football in the yard or piled on the couch with Nintendo, I enjoyed digging up bullets in the police shooting range. I rode my bicycle with a fishing pole strapped across my handle-bars. 

We were told to go outside and play and when it was dinner time Dad would step outside and whistle for us. He did that two fingers in the mouth “loud-whistle” that they use at concerts and when your favorite team scores a touchdown. When you heard Dad whistle, you knew it was time to get on home. I guess parents just text the kids now or send them a message on Facebook. Since the chances are their kids are somewhere in the house, holding some electronic device. 

Yard darts and pogo-sticks have been replaced by toys less likely to poke your eye out. 

I learned most of the stuff I know by watching my Dad or the neighbor man. Parents had to set some sort of example since their kids were watching them. Now their kids are too busy learning the rules from Google and YouTube. Times have changed since I was young. 

I hear about cars that will drive themselves and robots that will clean your home. It’s these kids who are google babies that love those ideas. More time for them to “surf the web” or whatever they do. No thanks! 

I want my own hand on the wheel, top-down, cruising the road with the radio on. Oh Yeah…I can plug up on Mp3 to the car and listen to my own playlist. No more commercials. OK, so technology does have some perks. 

It scares me to hand over more and more of my “hand on the wheel” for something else handling my business. I’m just not a fan of that. 

My lady tells me the other day she walked 7 miles before noon. I asked her how she knew? She replied that her IPhone tracks her movement and lets her know how far she’s traveled. If your phone tracks you, then so can anyone else who can get into your phone’s data….You can call ME on my old school Nokia. 

Don’t track me nowhere with a GPS. You can find me at the end of a dirt road. Track me to the lake…sitting at the end of the dock with my baby watching a sunset. Follow my fishing line from the bobber to the boat….where I’ll be chilling. 

And when you text me -- expect a real live call back. If you don’t have time for me, then I won’t have time for you. 

Three years and I’ll be home Momma. Keep the light on. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This Little Light of Mine

I carry a belief that there is a God.  I also believe that when I live according to a certain standard he will walk with me.  Before I chase you off, just chill....

There's on small problem and it's that I fly much faster than my guardian angel most days and I manage to lost that freedom.  The reality of life behind bars is the life here is savage.  I'm calling home and telling my lady we're on lock down because some dude had half his face cut off.  That's my reality.  Another part of that reality is there is no feeling other than...."better him than me."

This is where I struggle to walk that fine line of good and evil and heaven and hell.  My daily prayer consists of "Dear God, continue to bring your peace to my life."  And he does.  And I don't attend a Sunday service and tithe 10% or any of that.  God meets me much more than half way.  There was a time I really thought I was a badass.  I didn't have a clue.  I'll do my entire 30's in here.  Many of my friends have much longer sentences than I and I feel bad even mentioning that I am three and a half years to freedom.  However, in my last nearly seven years incarcerated I have experienced situations that have molded the man I am today.  Prison didn't rehabilitate me as much as I did myself.

In the same way, my attitude is "better him than me".  That completely changes when it comes to my family.  I know my lady, my sisters and my mom can hear a no bullshit (and at sometimes very harsh edge) to me that may seem scary, but they also see my heart.

I once tattooed a phrase on a man that stated, "If I know you, I fuck with you.  If I don't know you, then fuck ya!"  This was put on a nearly 300 pound black man.  That's just how he felt about shit.

Funny though....this life will give you that attitude. I don't necessarily feel like if I don't "know you"  than fuck you.  I feel more like you stay in your yard and I'll stay in mine.  We say back here to "stay in your own lane".  I like that.  Perhaps that's more my motto.

But then I think about my 17 year old daughter deciding she wants to come visit me here.  It's merely a dream that I play over and over and over again....  I make it through the door and into the visiting area.  She stands.  I see her.  That little girl all grown up.  She looks a little like me.  A lot like her momma.  I find that my breath is gone.  I exhale.  Standing before me is the best thing I've ever done with my life.

This will happen.  I've dreamed it over and over and I cry each time.  Was I saying I've become a badass?  What I became is a dad.  Only three and a half left huh?.....BRING IT!!  I can do this thing.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas From the Other Side of the Fence

I believe the holiday is perhaps the hardest time of the year for people doing time.  Our families all have someone missing at their table.  My mother is missing her oldest son.  Others are missing a brother and a child is missing a dad.

My loved ones do my time right alongside me.  They feel the weight of my sentence each day just as I do.  A very special wish to each of the people who love me enough to help pull me through this time in my life.

My brother and sisters, you are the best.  Brooke, you amaze me, thank you for your love.  Mom, I'm getting better all the time.  And to my daughter Taylor, remember the apple and quit being late to first period!!
Love, Michael

Well, it's that time of year again where...thanks to a very special group of people who care (friends) I get to send my lady a shout out and let her know how much I appreciate her and all she does for me.

Jennifer, I love you and thank you for the gift of love, respect, support and strength that you continue to give me.  Words cannot describe what you have come to mean to me...a toast!!!  To our future, Merry Christmas Love.

Mom...what love and patience you have with me.  you will always be my #1 gal!!  My gift for you is yet to come...I ask that you have just a little more patience with me.  Lots of love, hugs and kisses until then will have to do...remember I love you and am always thinking of you.  Merry Christmas mom.

P.S. Boruch Hashem Larry!!!  Have a blessed CHANUKAH!!  Always your brother.
Love, Michael

Another year over with.  That much closer to home.  Finally, my last Christmas in prison.  I want to wish you all a very special holiday season and know that you are all in my prayers.  This time next year we can all sit down, eat, drink and be merry!!  To my awesome family -- Merry Christmas!
Love, Benny

I want to first thank the Lord for the gentleman and his loved one for making this all possible -- thank you so much.  Everyone on this site is very grateful.  There are angels in prison.  My heart goes out to all of my loved ones who have endured this trial.  We've all been through so much together.  This Christmas I am so thankful for all the letters, pictures and support I've received.  Thank you, dad, for being my roc in here.  Thank you, grandma, for being my prayer.  I love you so much.  Thank you, Camille, for being the best sister every.  I'm going to take you gator hunting when I get home.  Sorry I didn't do all the outdoor things with you like I should have.  Nina and Dom, wow how you've both grown!  I can't wait to see you both.  Kimberly, what a true friend.  I love you.  Awesome pictures -- Melina is so big.  Merry Christmas, Shannon!  Thank you for being there for my grandma.  To Graclyn and your family, I pray that you and your family receive an overflow of rewards and love from heaven. Merry Christmas, Graclyn, your a"Amen".  I'm so blessed this Christmas.  I have a beautiful family with so much kindness -- thank you all!
Love, Jason

Dad & Terry,
Merry Christmas!  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.  You all have done the greatest thing for me since I've been in prison -- you all never, never left my side through the bad and good times.  You help me get through my problems I never thought I could get through.  I can't express all the love you've given me and always will.  I will see you all soon.  Thank you for being there.
Your son, James P.

Dear Family & Friends,
Mom and Bill, you are my rock!  Don't know where or who I would be in this life without you guys.  Remember always always.  To those who are apart of my life from sending pictures of food and kicking my butt in Uno to those you pray for me.  Thank you for ALL of you support over these long years.  Those who have come and gone through my life, I hope I helped you as much as you helped me in going through this plan God has for me.  Those of you who struggle with addictions, depression or bad relationships, this is not the end.  Stand tall and take control of your life.  If you need a friend, I'm here.  Thank you Mike and Brooke for doing this awesome project.  God Bless.  Have a wonderful time with your loved ones celebrating the coming of Christ.
Merry Christmas, Phillip

This is the third year running now that I'm giving this shout-out.  To all of you....and hopefully the last.  Things are looking good and with any luck I will be home for the holidays next year to  celebrate as a free man.  I love you all and Merry Christmas!
Love, Chris

Dear Naida,
I want to take the time to let you know how much I appreciate you in every way.  I want you to know that I love and miss ya'll so much.  And that you and my baby girl mean the world to me.  I hope you can understand that ya'll are who I think about day and night.  And that ya'll are the best thing that every happened to m.  I wish ya'll a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Love Forever & Always, Marquis

Dear Mom,
Thank you for all your hard work.  I could not do this time without your support.  I just wanna say you're the best and that I am sorry I am not there.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Love, Your Son, Derek

To my family, my friends and my love,
I hope that you are all having the times of your life.  Enjoy this Christmas and have a Happy New Year!  I love and miss all ya'll and I'm always thinking of you.  Sarah, I love you so much and hope that you can make the best of this.  Thank you for all of your support and helping me wake up every day.  I miss and love you with all my heart.
Love, Mike

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What would you do?

J.J. enjoys listening to Snap Judgement.  Recently, he laid in his bunk and listened to this heart breaking story. 

The Ultimate Sacrifice: NPR

Listen to the story.

When Joe and Yvonne Jackson found out their youngest son, Cole, was on the brink of life or death, they never imagined what they'd have to give up in order to save his life.
Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

Now for our first story, SNAP JUDGEMENT's Nancy Lopez is going to kick things off in the Republic of Texas.

NANCY LOPEZ, BYLINE: When Yvonne Jackson gave birth to her youngest son, Cole, everything seemed to be normal.

YVONNE JACKSON: A friend of mine had came over to see the new baby. We noticed that Cole had some little red dots all over him - it kind of almost looked like heat rash. I said, I think I should probably call the pediatrician. For some reason something's telling me I need to get him in there.

LOPEZ: Yvonne took Cole to the hospital where they ran a few blood tests. She was told to return in a couple of hours, so she dropped off her two older kids and her mother-in-law's.

Y. JACKSON: And as I pulled back into the parking lot, I saw Laura, the nurse practitioner, standing at the door. And I thought it was to unlock it and as soon as I walked up, Dr. Horner said - I mean, it was like, simultaneously - she said, Yvonne, I'm going to take you to the office, and Dr. Horner grabbed Cole and just ran down this long hallway. I was little in shock because at that time, I just thought - I mean, I thought it was a heat rash - you know, I just thought it was going to be something simple. There was never a thought in my head that Cole had this horrible disease.

LOPEZ: Yvonne's husband Joe was a truck driver. She says Joe was out on the road, and she didn't want to give him the bad news over the phone. So she waited a couple of weeks until he got back.

Y. JACKSON: I had Cole with me. I said, the baby's sick. He said, well, what do we have to do to get him fixed?

LOPEZ: It took six months before the doctors were able to give the Jacksons an answer. Turns out, Cole was born with the rare immunodeficiency disease known as Wiskott Aldrich syndrome.

Y. JACKSON: I was honestly relieved at that point thinking hey, we know what this is, we're going to get this fixed and that's that.

LOPEZ: But the disease is life-threatening. The immune system is defenseless and even a cold can be fatal. The doctors told Yvonne and Joe that Cole needed a bone marrow transplant and he needed one fast. They told him...

Y. JACKSON: That he would never see his third birthday, which would've been July. They said that's the only thing that could save him. That without that, that Cole would die.

LOPEZ: The problem now was money. The entire procedure cost $250,000, and the Jacksons needed half of that just to get the baby into the hospital. There other problem - they lost Cole's health insurance when a monthly fee didn't clear their bank account. They had no idea how they were going to come up with all that money. The doctors told them there was another option - they could send hospice in until the baby passed away.

Y. JACKSON: You don't tell a parent that you're going to keep their child as comfortable as possible just because they don't have the money. So you're saying that if I've got tons of money, my child can live, but if I don't have any money, my child needs to die? That shouldn't have been - that shouldn't have even been the question.

LOPEZ: They sold everything but their house. They sold Joe's second truck, some trailers and tools. They organized fundraisers, they had bake sales and car washes and rodeos.

Y. JACKSON: We called our Senators. We called everyone. I mean, we seriously called everyone that we knew at that time that we thought might be able to help us.

LOPEZ: But by the two-year deadline the doctors had given Yvonne and Joe to get Cole in the hospital, they had only raised $52,000. Then their prayers were answered. When word spread about their cause, an organization stepped up and matched it. Now with $100,000 the hospital agreed to go ahead with Cole's operation. But they still felt way too short. The hospital told them they still had to pay out the other $150,000.

Y. JACKSON: I would probably say I panicked a little more than Joe because I was worried that you know, what would happen if we didn't get the money. And I remember one night he just said, I'm going to give in, I'm not going to let him die. And he said, so don't worry. Your worry is to get Cole to the doctor, make sure the kids are good and safe and take care of them, and I'll make sure we get the money to get him well. He said this is your worry and I'll take care of the rest, because it's my job to take care of you all.

LOPEZ: Joe was on the road 24/7 hauling produce from Colorado back to Texas. Than hauling cattle to California and back again. And miraculously enough, he was covering all of the family's expenses, Cole's ever-increasing medical bills plus their mortgage.

Y. JACKSON: I think deep down maybe I knew that there was some - too much money coming in, but I also knew that it was getting the bills paid and we were able to stay at the hospital with Cole.

LOPEZ: Cole's transplant failed. As the doctors came up with the different treatment, the medical bills kept racking up - almost $5,000 a month. Joe kept assuring Yvonne that he was taking care of it. And somehow he was still getting everything paid. With time, Cole's health got more stable. He lived to see his third birthday and then his fourth. Life seemed to be finally getting a bit easier for the Jacksons. That is, until one morning.

Y. JACKSON: I was trying to get breakfast - get lunches packing and get the two kids ready for school and someone came over a loudspeaker and said, we need everyone in the house to come out with their hands up. I looked out the door and I said, what the heck is this? It went through my head that maybe they were at the wrong house. And so I told April - I said, April get John and Cole and go get on my bed and don't get off until I come back in the house because you know, they get a little gun happy or something - I don't want none of you all to get hurt. So stay in this house no matter what happens. Just stay in this house. I walked out the door with my arms up like they said.
First they have like, all these little red dot lasers on you. So I'm holding my hands up and then this guy just comes running by me - like, grabs me up like a sack of potatoes and runs me over to the other side of our - the driveway. He sat me down and this guy said, are you Yvonne Jackson and I went, yeah. Who's in the house? And I said, my kids are in the house. So April, Jackson, Cole and John - he said their whole names - are the only ones in the house? I said, yes sir. I said how did you know? And I'm like how did you know us? What's going on here? They really wasn't talking. They were just, you know, like, everybody was tons of people everywhere - the ATF coming to find out and the DA and all that were there. And he said, we're looking for your husband. We've got a warrant for his arrest. I said, for what? And then he starts telling me, well, he's been, you know, hauling drugs. What? I said, have you lost your mind? And so I told the guy, listen I'm going in to get my kids. And he said, no. You go in there and, you know, we'll shoot you. And I said, well, I guess you're going to have to shoot me because I'm going to go get the kids. They're scared, I've got to go get my kids right now. I just took off for the house.

LOPEZ: They didn't shoot. Yvonne rushed to gather up her kids and try to figure out what to do next. She was told not to return to the house for the rest of the day.

Y. JACKSON: I'm just, like, so confused at this point and scared and don't know what's going on. And so I actually dropped off my oldest son. I don't know why. I look back now and think I wish I hadn't done that. But I did drop him at school. And then my daughter says, I'm not going Mom. I'm staying with you because I'm scared. I said, me too. I don't know what's going on. Let's go to Nanny's.

LOPEZ: Yvonne spent the day just waiting for night to fall. That's usually when Joe called.

Y. JACKSON: He called me that night and I said, these people came into the house that he was like, what? So I told him what happened. He said, don't worry; I'll take care of it. It's OK. Don't worry about nothing. It's OK. It's OK. You know, I knew what had happened, what was going on at that point. He ended up hauling some drugs and they paid him to do that. And he did it to come up with the money for Cole.

LOPEZ: For two years, Joe was transporting methamphetamine. He would get a grand for every pound of meth he carried from California to Texas. A typical load was up to $11,000 worth of meth. Enough to pay for Cole's medical expenses. Joe turned himself in. The federal court in Fort Worth found him guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. At trial, the defense presented letters and evidence to show that the reason Joe did what he did was because it was his last resort. It was the only way to pay for his son's transplant. But the judge, notorious for his harsh sentences, didn't bat an eye. He sentenced Joe to life.

Y. JACKSON: Hi, Joe.

JOE JACKSON: How are you doing?

Y. JACKSON: I'm good how are you?

J. JACKSON: I'm doing all right.

LOPEZ: Joe has been locked up now for nearly 19 years. He's been moved around a lot and currently finds himself in a low security federal prison in Arkansas. He gets to talk on the phone five hours a month - but only in 15 minute increments.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Fifteen minutes, right?

J. JACKSON: Yes ma'am.


J. JACKSON: But, you know, if you need more time, we'll have to wait 30 minutes and I'll call you back.

LOPEZ: Joe's days are pretty much on repeat. He talks with Yvonne and the kids on the phone every week. He works at the prison grocery store, making 75 cents an hour. He gets off at five and that's when he calls me one Tuesday. Joe tells me that even after all this time, he clearly remembers what he told the judge when he sentenced him to life.

J. JACKSON: I said, you know, when that boy right there was dying and we tried every way in the world asking all of you people for help, every federal agency there was, you wouldn't help us. And I don't figure you're going to help me now. And that's exactly what I told the judge in my statement at sentencing. I done knew what I was fixing to get and it was over. My only regret was that he couldn't give me a death sentence. At least if I would've died or they would've put me to death my family could've got over it and got on with their lives. I hate it that my wife has sat out there by herself all these years. She works all day long and comes home to an empty house, you know.

LOPEZ: Joe has missed out on a lot - birthdays and graduations, watching his daughter get married, his grandchildren being born.
Joe, when you get look back is it something you would do again if faced with the same circumstance?

J. JACKSON: Well, you're asking me if I'd do anything different? I didn't like what I had to do then and I wouldn't like it if I had to do it now. I'm telling you what. I'm glad that I had that avenue to get big money fast other than say, walking in a bank with the gun because I would've done whatever I had to do. Do you have kids miss Lopez?

LOPEZ: I don't. I don't.

J. JACKSON: You'll understand when you have them. Believe me. It's still a blessing to me to have my kids healthy.

LOPEZ: Doctors never thought Cole would live past five and now he's 24. He has high blood pressure and takes a bunch of pills to boost his immune system. But overall he's pretty healthy. I talked to Cole and he says that growing up it took him a while to understand why his dad did what he did. Now that he's an adult he gets it. And actually, he can't help but live with some guilt about it.

J. JACKSON: I know it weighs on him. But I don't want Cole to feel guilty about it. It's not Cole's fault I'm here. I'll tell you, if I'm going to bring a child into this world then it's my duty to make sure he's got the best chance there is. And if he's sick like mine was I'm a sorry son-of-a-bitch if I wouldn't give my life to save his.

WASHINGTON: Thank you, Joe and Yvonne, for sharing your story. I keep thinking that if my kids were in trouble I might have a cell right next to Joe. If you're wondering, Joe may be a candidate for a special presidential pardon given to nonviolent drug offenders with clean prison records. We wish you the best, Joe. To learn more about Joe and his family's story check out reporter Malcolm Garcia's article at, we'll have a link as well at That story was produced by Nancy Lopez with sound design by Renzo Gorrio.

Now when SNAP JUDGMENT returns, you don't need shoes to crash a plane. And sometimes nature is not your friend. When SNAP JUDGMENT'S Desperate Measures Episode continues. Stay Tuned.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014


Dad used to tell this story about my mom.  They went to get ice cream and mom tried to pass some sort of slushie through the window.  When it wouldn't fit, mom simply turned it sideways at which time the lid came off and the content spilled down the inside of the door. 

The story always made people laugh, at my moms expense.  Yet any time the story was told, my mother laughs hysterically, right along with everyone.  And that's the woman I call mom.  Seldom offended and quick to laugh, even if at herself. 

I was currently locked in the box for 45 days.  When I come to confinement I have my loved ones send me paper, envelopes and some crossword puzzles.  I don't ask for Sudoku because I don't get how to do them.

After being in the box that first week my packet showed up.  I smiled, then opened it.  Enclosed were the envelopes and stamps I needed, along with a pile of Sudoku puzzles.  Well, I used that paper and envelopes to write home to my lady and remind her it was CROSSWORDS I love to do.....

A few more days pass waiting on the pony express and the next packet arrives. I eagerly open it to find even more Sudokus.  Somewhat frustrated I none-the-less sit down and decide "screw it"....I will figure these things out.  The directions state:

1.  Each horizontal row shown in pink contains each digit exactly once.
2.  Each vertical column shown in yellow contains each digit exactly once.
3.  Each sub-grid or region shown in green contains each digit exactly once. 

Well, I think.  It's color coded so this shouldn't be that hard to figure out.  Some nice, easy, simple directions.  The only problem is that my sweet lady printed them off in black and white.  For some reason I suddenly pictured a slushie sliding down the inside of a window.  What we have here is a classic in the making.

And, it is the little things like this that keep me sane.  At the end of the day, even better than a Sudoku puzzle is real laughter.  Thank you so my lady and my mom for the best gift of all!  :)