Sunday, February 14, 2010

#29 About the prison writer

About the Author

Who is Nolaw97?

I noticed that a few people have been interested in knowing who is behind this computer writing these blogs, so today I will touch on that just a bit. The name, “Nolaw” is actually an acronym and properly spelled would actually say “NO-LA2-W2”.

Don’t worry, I’m not telling what that really means.

But “Nolaw” is easier on they eye, especially since the “2” are actually subscript. Still, this was not my first name in writing. Let me back up a bit.

I am a graduate from college, with a B.S. in radio and television, and minored in Journalism. Before I went to prison, I worked in radio, did a little acting, a lot of writing and had my own mail order business…and NO, it was not a scam business. Don’t get stupid and second guess what I am sharing.

My life was pretty decent, with high expectations. There was a lot of room for promise and life was fun. I had a huge love for sports, and video games, life just could not be more fun. But in 1997 everything went downhill and ended in me going to jail.

Life turned completely over, from promise of good things, to an empty shell. I spent 17 months straight in jail, going from court to cell, cell to court about my case. Except for the first 10 days, I spent all of it in a single cell, isolation if you will. That period of time was beyond difficult, and more than once I thought about suicide…

More than once I attempted it too.

In those times there was also a spiritual battle going on, where I wondered why I was in this situation. You see, the common person only looks at the easiest way to condemn, so they would look at your charge, and immediately assume that you are guilty, I mean, perfect people never get arrested.

Now I admit I am not perfect, but I wager neither of YOU are either. I also admit that I make many mistakes…but I wager that ALL of you do too. Yet for the life of me, I wondered how I got where I was, when everything was looking so good. I know it sounds selfish, but I truly, truly believed I was a good person, and I had many acts of kindness to prove it. But all it takes is one situation, and you could be indirectly involved, to be caught in the middle.

In any case, there I was, in jail, looking at doing a lot of time in prison.

In that time I did the one thing I could do to keep my sanity…I wrote. I wrote journals of what was going on in my incarcerated life, and wrote often. But at the same time, because I had been in jail so long, I got to meet many different inmates. Yes even in jail, from isolation, you can meet people. I got to know many of the officers, and many inmates who were put in “the hole”, from juveniles who were being beaten up by their peers in the group cell, to guys who got 30 days for trespassing, to guys who got double life for murder. I had a chance to meet them, talk with them and for some, make friends.

But in all that time, I worried about my life, and I questioned where God was in all this. Was this my fate, to die in prison? Nobody prays for such a punishment, but then again, nobody prays for any punishment. For the next 17 months I fought myself on these very sensitive questions, ones that no human could possibly answer.

In that time I remembered about something I went through in college, and how I got a miracle by faith in God. If ever there was a time to get a miracle, this was it. So from my jail cell, I began to write to ministries for books on inspiration and faith. I poured over it and the Bible daily, looking for a way to make things right. To be sure, things were not looking good for me at all. There was almost no hope for me.

But on the day of my sentencing, there was a miracle. Somehow, the judge saw my situation, and like others said to me, I was more a victim than anything else…but still, I did time, far, far less than anyone expected…even my own lawyer. Everybody saw my situation as a miracle….

I did not. I saw it as a complete failure. In my eyes, if it was a miracle, I would have gone home…instead I was going to prison.

At that moment I hated God because to me, He lied about His Word. The Bible was very clear on asking and receiving, and operating in faith. I thought for sure I was on the right track, and yet, it failed. Yet during that time in jail, I fought the idea that what if, just supposing, what if I was supposed to go to prison?


Why would I WANT to go to prison? I had no desire to go, I wanted to go home, but what if prisons needed a good heart, or at least a person with a decent heart. I am not talking about sending saints to prison, but at the same time, who would go to help people that are poor in spirit? The common citizen would not touch it with a 10 foot pole, and even ministries are limited in the time they can give to inmates….for it to really work, the help had to be in the form of inmates.

Sometimes to help inmates…you have to BE one.

Now that is way above what I can understand, nor was it something I cared about. I just wanted to go home, but was instead going to prison. Granted, it was much, much shorter than it could have been, but to me, even 1 day in prison is one day too much. So on the day I was shipped to prison, I told myself that I would never, EVER trust God again.

In my anger against God, I also promised myself that I would still try to help those that I could…I could tell you numerous stories of what I did to help others while I was in jail, I didn’t do that to brag, I did it because it just seemed like the right thing to do. In prison, I promised myself to do the same…at least it would be more than what God would be willing to do.

So I started doing my time with that belief, that God cares not for anybody, and that humanity must help one another. To me, you just can’t count on God stepping in. And I noticed something in that belief…my time in prison, although mentally depressing, was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, I actually began to prosper. While doing time at Pasquotank Correctional, at one point my life in prison was almost as perfect as it could be, all things considering. I had money, a cool job, a good roommate, cool guys in the prison dorm, it was all very good. If I had to do all my time like that, I would have made it easily.

Perhaps it was that belief that tempted me to believe that maybe I could bring God back in my life…I mean, everything was going great then. So I started looking for ministries to write to, and began reading scriptures again…

Then my life was turned upside down.

All of a sudden, all the good things going on in my prison life changed. I got a “promotion”, which resulted in me being transferred to another camp. I lost my prison job, lost my friends, and was on a new camp that was not nearly as comfortable as the previous. I went from having double cell to living in an open dorm with about 40+ guys. It was terrible.

On top of that, I went months with no money, and even the simple delight of a soda was rare. Life was difficult again, it was like all the joy I had was stripped away once I started believing in God again, and it was all I had. But something else happened, I began to see that there are indeed prison issues that needed to be addressed. Many inmates had problems that bothered them, but most felt that writing grievances was worthless…nobody listens to inmates anyway.

But I LOVED to write. So it was no problem for me to write a grievance, or two , or 22. But I learned often that the inmates were right, the prison system was fixed so they could suffocate any problems and the inmate often loses…even if he is right. But there was a way to beat that, but it took writing to do it…something I loved doing.

I began to get addresses of any prison official, government official, elected official or any ear I could get, and wrote to them about the problems. After awhile the prison started receiving letters that I wrote, sent to them by their superiors, and it forced them to do one of two things…fix the problem…or kick me out of prison.. Now by that I mean “transfer” because prisons often throw people out if they become a problem the cannot fix.

It didn’t take long before I was often writing about prison conditions and the lack of effort prisons take to really rehabilitate people. It just seemed like one big detention center, yet people on the outside expect ex felons to step out of the prison with a halo around the head, and able to heal the sick…how do you expect to get that if the prisons don’t lift a finger to help?

In time I had used my writing to send hundreds…yes HUNDREDS, of letters from prison. In fact, at Sanford Correctional, I was so upset about a situation I stuffed the mailbox with 100 letters. I wrote to everybody from prison ministries, faith ministries, elected officials, prison officials, colleges and universities, and even the pentagon. I knew many were like false shots, but I wanted to send a serious message that I was not playing around. The next morning one of the officers came to me and asked if I was the guy that sent those letters, I told him yes, to which he asked, “uh, is everything ok”?

I told him yes, not divulging the true intent.

Shortly afterwards, I was put in chains, put in a state car and shot off to another prison, put in isolation on trumphed up charges by the prison. I beat the charges because purely, they were false, and by prison policy, I was supposed to go back to that same prison…which I actually wanted. But at the very last second, they pulled me out of the transfer bus and sent me to another camp.

Throughout my prison time, I had the pleasure of making many friends, people that made mistakes and if given an honest chance, would change or at least try to make amends, and officers that were kind and understood that too. But I also ran into a lot of crap in prisons that only made me more determined to write a grievance or a letter. After being kicked out of 4 prisons, and almost a 5th, I was released in 2001. I had done my time, I had paid my debt to society, now I wanted my life back.

I was not about to get it back.

I first had to do 3 years probation, and pay $10,000 in restitution, and in that time I honestly thought that if I could get my life back on track , I could pay it. But nothing was working, and finding a job with a background was damn near impossible. During that time I was online and ran across a prison ministry that had questions about prison. I read it and noticed that the only responses were very few, and some were pretty negative. I read it and thought, “I can answer that” and did so. I got responses from readers saying how nice it is to hear the answers from a person that has been there.

That was where my prison writing began.

It was never my plan, but I felt obligated to share my thoughts to those who have loved ones in prison. What started out as a couple of posts quickly over the years blew up to hundreds, and writing for numerous other prison support sites. I was getting emails and comments daily, and it was almost a full time job. It was then somebody asked, “have you ever considered writing a book”.

That’s when I thought about writing “Grades of Honor”. So I did, but the same people who asked me to write a book would not give me the time of day when I talked about it. Sites like Prison Talk Online and Lost Vault and Write A Prisoner were very quick to ban me the second I mentioned about my books, but they had no problem promoting prison books from authors that never set one sentence on their site. The irony, being banned from prison support sites for talking about my books…yet they had no problem accepting all my posts, which were met with much thanks from the other members.

In my earlier years from about 2002 to about 2004 I was going under “masonik4”, but after some difficult times with a number of prison support sites I took time off and came back as Nolaw97. Many readers who knew my writing style immediately remembered it was me, and was glad to see me back writing. But nothing changed in how these sites treated ex felons, and a combination of selfish moderators and silly members eventually got me weary of writing for sites like PTO.

The final straw came when a member of PTO had bought one of my books, and was disappointed in how the site, who swore they were “prison support” was not supporting those that were contributing heavily to it…she was speaking for me. She knew I didn’t have a job, no income, and trying to make a living by selling my books, cards and such. If I could get some support, even in exchange for goods, I could definitely contribute more. But her post was met with bitterness, and they immediately banned her from the site…then banned ME for assumed “guilt by association”.

So much for prison support.

Now falsely accused and banned from Prison Talk, I began focusing on my prison blogs, and have done that since. There has been times where I closed all my works down, only to open it again in an attempt to get readers and support. Indeed, I have received support from some readers, and it has helped me at key times, but I could never get it in a more constant matter to call it a life. Even now, having just restarted this blog about a couple weeks ago, some of my readers have found me and have asked to support it. I hope it works this time, there is so much I can do to help.

So that’s where we are now, there are many, many gaps in that story, but that’s why I blog, to fill those in as we go along. I know there is a way to make an honest income by prison writing, since millions of people are affected by loved ones going to prison, but the hardest thing is getting people to believe I am sincere enough to support. I won’t lie to you, I want to be able to take that cruise off the coasts of Hawaii, but long before that, I would like to pay my debts, help my family and get a new computer…for starters. So we’ll see where this goes. Until next time…

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