his next visit to the parole board in 2013, hoping for a better outcome. In the
meantime, he says he's at peace because even if he ends up dying in prison, he
feels his life has not been wasted.
He was especially happy over a letter he recently received.
Years ago, when he first went to prison, a teacher in Denver who saw Juvies
had the class write to him. He began exchanging letters with these teenage
Colorado gangbangers and felt confused and humbled -- how could he give them
advice? There was a girl who was into drugs and her brother was in prison for
murder and her whole family situation was very messed up. They wrote each other
frequently for a while and then he didn't hear from her. So you can imagine how
thrilled he was to get a letter from her recently enclosing wedding photos.
She's now an RN, just married, and wrote to thank him for all the advice and
encouragement he gave her.
He has reached a point of spirituality that amazes me, cleansing himself of all bitterness and anger over what he's endured.
He said Leslie Neale is now making a new documentary about Forgiveness -- victims of violent crime forgiving and forging connection with the perpetrators. What a beautiful project...she is just the best! This resonated so much with conversations in Colombia (see those posts, below). I am impressed and interested in how Duc holds no rancor against the system that has treated him so irrationally and harshly. I've met other guys
who actually did commit violent crimes and get out of prison and they are filled with rage over how they were treated. The brutality of prison life becomes so overwhelming that they don't even think about the acts they committed that put them there to begin with. The system must be held to account, but Duc's way offers a healthier outcome for the individual. He knows that anger will only hurt him.
So here's what pisses me off this particular weekend on his (and others') behalf:
He just met the Buddhist chaplain who has apparently been going to Corcoran for 12 years, during all the time that he was denied Buddhist services and had his prayer beads confiscated and had to go to a board to get them returned. The chaplain was consistently denied access to the Asian Buddhists on C yard. Apparently, she's only talked to a couple of white guys who became interested in Buddhism in prison. Duc will now try to do outreach to other Buddhists in prison and arrange for regular services.
The visiting room was almost empty because all Hispanics have been on lockdown for weeks. There were some violent incidents between Norteños and Sureños and since the corrections officers can't distinguish one Latino from another, all Latinos and Mexican
nationals are on lockdown.
All self-help programs seem to be eliminated --budget cuts?
I guess he was thinking about death because for months he experienced excruciating headaches and his requests to see a doctor were ignored. Finally they sent him for tests. For one thing, he had an infection stemming from a wisdom tooth. When they extracted the tooth and treated the infection, the headaches stopped, but they also found a spot on his brain and in his lungs as well as an enlarged heart. The spot on his lung may still be from that bout with Valley Fever and the surgery he had and the spot on his brain
they want to think was from the infection that's now been treated. They are checking his heart again and he's supposed to have a telemed conference soon. But for now, he's just happy to be free of pain. He usually turns down even aspirin because once you get a reputation for seeking painkillers, the prison authorities always suspect any medical complaint from you is just a dodge to get drugs. His main complaint about being sick was that he didn't have the energy to accomplish anything. If his life is not to be wasted, he feels he has to do something constructive every day, so that his time in prison is meaningful time.
Prison certainly knows how to make people waste time. Corcoran has a new system where you make appointments to visit a prisoner. If you don't get an appointment, you can show up and take your chances that they'll let you in after 11:00 am. I was lucky enough to get a 10:30 appointment so I drove three hours and saw all the cars parked along the road, people who'd waited all night to be first in line hoping to get in without an appointment. I was at the visitors room at 10:15 to find they were only getting around to processing the 9:30 appointments. I did manage to be admitted before noon which meant Duc was brought to visiting before the 12:00 count which would have held us up a long time. The visiting room closed at 2:45 so we didn't have a lot of time to talk and I was left wondering if those people who'd waited all night got to visit their loved ones at all.