Friday, February 19, 2010

#53 Prison Talk Q&A Encouragement certificates (retro)

Prison Talk: Q&A Prison Certificates

Question: I read about your prison encouragement certificates and was interested in it. Can you explain to me what that really is and how it can help my loved one in prison?

Sure, I can do that.

Today I had to go to the post office, but before I did, I checked my email earlier today and saw some emails from some of you about the certificates I mentioned in the last blog. I realized I am getting more new readers, so sometimes I have to go back and talk about some of the things I might have gone into detail months before.

No problem. I don’t mind.

Now if you are new, you got a heck of a lot of reading to catch up on. I really need to find a way to index it so to make it easier for some of you. I’ll work on that.

Before I answer the question, my thanks again for some of you who have been very kind to me by blessing me with gifts. I realize that it takes faith to believe that this ex felon whose pen name is “Nolaw”….

(oh, by the way, the name is actually an acronym…some people have criticized me because they thought the name implied that I respect no law…not true at all)

And I understand that it is very hard to trust what a “con man” says, but I challenge anyone to read 20 of my blogs and still see me as such. A person reveals himself through what he speaks, or in this case, what he writes. If I was a cheat, liar and scoundrel, I think I would have revealed it after several thousand pages of writing.

So it’s really a blessing to me when people read my works, and understand that I am not perfect, that there is no halo around my head, but I really, really care about trying to help others with loved ones in prison. When those kinda people see that, and feel that blessing me financially is a good thing, I am truly blessed.

To those people, from the bottom of my heart and by my faith in God, I thank you.

Now, about that question….

To a lot of people, a “prison encouragement certificate” sounds really strange. Why would an inmate need a certificate? What does it certify? How does that help me or him in prison?

The idea, I am sure, is not original, but I had never done it before until my last few months in prison. I actually got started on the foundations of the idea while I was at Dan River Prison Work Farm, in Yanceyville, NC.

I was nearing my final few months in prison (and very afraid of my future, but that is another blog) and I was taking a computer class there. I really didn’t need to take it, because I took computer classes in college and just needed to tune up a bit. But while taking those classes, I noticed a guy doing a “World’s Best Mother” award. It was very “plain Jane”, just a very simple border on standard white paper. It had a sentence or two on it and the signatures in print. I looked at it and thought, “that is decent”.

But then I thought, how can we do that better? At the time I was getting specialty paper from my mom, which actually included certificate paper with color…very nice stuff. I used to sell it to other inmates, or I would write poems in it to make it look really nice. But then I figured, why not print out certificates and awards on this paper for inmates to send to their loved ones?

So I started using my designer paper to design “awards” or “certificates” using positive emotions and feelings to be an encouragement to whomever it was sent. It didn’t take long for me to print up a bunch of certificates, and then I would enhance them by using color chalk, kinda like the ones artists use. Those were allowed in the prisons I was in.

I ended up making tons of them, and really enjoyed making them. I didn’t make a mint selling them, heck sometimes I gave some away, but by the time I was released, I had many, many of these certificates that I took home with me.

Some of these include an “Award of Inspiration”, an “Inspiration Award”, a “To My Personal Angel”, “In Appreciation”, and many others. I have a thick folder of these things and I figured that I might as well just tuck them away when I got out, since I had no plans of ever doing anything with them. This was about the same time I had not realized that I would be writing prison posts or blogs.

A short time later, after I had been writing blogs and posts, and my first prison book, “Grades of Honor” I was trying to think of other things I could make for those with loved ones in prison. Sure everybody was doing prison cards, and so did I, but I needed something…more.

It was while looking through my prison journals and letters when I came across this big folder of certificates and thought, what if I could do something in reverse…instead of certificates inmates can send to loved ones outside the prison, why not do the opposite?

The concept is quite simple; I wanted to give you something positive and encouraging to send to your loved one in prison. And while we can always write a letter or send a card, why not “award” or “certify” your love or believe in them in a slightly more formal way?

So that is when I started making encouragement certificates for inmates. The idea is that I make something positive, send it to you, and if you like it, then send it to your loved one. The purpose is to generate positive and encouraging feelings and believes, because let’s face it, prison life is full of negativity. And if you are burdened and worried about that loved one, your life may be full of it too. We have to find a way to counter those negative feelings so we can build some hope in you and your loved one.

Now note that what I send is nothing official, but rather a dedication of your believe to a loved one in prison. For that reason, it carries no weight as far as an official document. But the FAITH carried in those certificates and awards can me so much more to a person in prison.

Now, before I forget, let me say this too, if you receive any of these prison encouragement certificates from me, you may want to remember this…be mindful of the prison rules as far as sending things. For example, do NOT put it in a frame and send it, you know the prison won’t accept it. Or, you may probably want to see if the prison will accept a lamination of that certificate or not. In addition, you may have to send it folded, which I know is kinda hard to want to do. Many of you may want to send it flat in a large envelope, but you may have to fold it like a regular letter. That’s ok, if your loved one is still allowed to receive it. Make sure to check before you send.

So let’s say I send you one of these prison encouragement certificates, and keep in mind that I am proposing to send a free one to anyone who asks (within number) probably early February. Let’s say you email me and say, “hey, I have a loved one in prison and I was wondering if you can send me one of those prison encouragement certificates you talked about. It is free, right”?

This particular offer is free, yes. I want to send one to some that are interested. So what I need is an address to send it to you. I mentioned in another blog that although the faster thing would be for me to send it straight to the prison, that brings in a lot of complications and I am not at the point yet where I can receive a bunch of letters from inmates…not yet, but maybe soon.

And greater than that is the fact that I want YOU to see what YOU are sending them. It’s your faith added to that award or certificate, so you have to at least see what I am talking about. So I have to send it to you. All I need is your address, or any address where you can get it.

So let’s say I want to send someone one of my prison encouragement certificates called, “Blessed Hope Award”. I have almost 60 different certificates already made, and it would not take much for me to jump back and create another few new ones. But let’s say I send you the “Blessed Hope Award”.

This “award” has a background of a cloudy day in the mountains, but through those clouds you can see rays of light cutting through to the ground. It’s a nice background. At the top I have a ribbon centered with the words, “Blessed Hope Award”. The color scheme is pretty much blue, but the title is in yellow. Beneath the award title is a sentence or two I make up to try to add substance to the certificate. In this case, I wrote under the award title the following:

May you be blessed with the hope that even in your difficult times, you are still loved. May you never forsake your faith in yourself, humanity and God above.

This is in large font size, and makes a large part of the certificate, but not too large. I also use a nice font to make it look attractive. Beneath the saying I add, “awarded on this date” and have a space where you can physically write in the date you sent it. At the bottom of the award on the far left is the word, “To” and on the middle of the award, at the bottom is the word, “From”. This allows you to sign your name to it, and the name of whom you are sending it.

That’s just one of dozens of examples that I have made, and I will probably make some more, but you get the idea.

I send that to you (or another prison encouragement certificate) and the first thing I want you to do with it is LOOK at it. I want this to be something you will like, because if so, it would then carry your love when you send it. This is important because we are trying to build positive emotions here, as well as faith. You want to encourage your loved one, and I want to encourage you. If I can send you something that helps, then you in turn, could send it to your son, daughter, husband, boyfriend, brother, or whomever.

So you get it, look at it and sign it, then send it to your loved one. And because this particular event is free, you owe me nothing…although I would love to know how your loved one felt when he got it. In the past when I did it, it always made me feel good when a mother or wife emails me, telling me how much she loved how the award looked and how they got a call or letter from their loved one letting them know how much they appreciated it.

THAT folks, is the goal. The moment we can get results like that, we then are put in a situation of taking control of the fear, depression, and stress of having a loved one in prison. If I can help you get to that point, then we are making progress. Because then you start to feel that maybe you can get through this, and so can he. If you leave the door cracked on that believe, then we can push forward and put some faith in you. Maybe I can talk more about prison issues and how you can be a powerful force for him, or how you can pray for his safety and rest assured that he or she will be fine. Or maybe we can get you to the point that even though things are bad, it can change for the better.

But I can’t do any of that unless we first crack that door. I can write another 250 blogs about prison, but until YOU open up just a bit, you’ll just be reading words. So I hope that my free offer will be that first step. I don’t expect to do this for hundreds of people, because I can’t afford that, but for those that accept it, I will do my best to send you a free prison encouragement certificate.

And understand why I am able to do this, I always thank people for supporting my writing, and it is because of them that I can do this. Just as people have been a blessing to me to send me $5 or $50 or $300, I now have the ability to do something in turn for those that may not have the venues to help me. Sure, I will go out and buy a video game if somebody sent me $200, but trust me when I say this, I will also make sure to take care of my writing too, so that I can continue to give you my best. It’s my way of trying to give you the best I can, when I can.

So every now and then I can offer something free, because I can set aside some money to take care of printing, stamps, mailing and the like. I am very, very thankful to those people who look out for me in this way, and I cannot possibly say thank you enough.

So I hope that helps answer some of your questions about the prison encouragement certificate. As I mentioned, I want to try to give away a free prison encouragement certificate starting very late January to very early February, maybe for Valentine’s Day. I am not sending any now, just giving you a heads up.

In addition, I also am working on some special packages, like cards, encouragement certificates, flyers and things like that, as well as my prison books and my first prison blog book. I will make these available later too.

I cannot give you an exact number of how may I want to give away, but it won’t be a ton. Another reason why I am doing this is because it not only gets my foot in the door to help you, but it also gets my foot in the door for you to see what I am about. If I can give you a good product for free, it might give you some faith in me, to consider maybe some more certificates, or prison cards or even some of my prison books in the future. Maybe a person that receives one of my free certificates may down the road buy 10 more from me, or my “Grades of Honor” books, or simply just support my blogs. If not that is cool too, but at least I tried.

So I hope you will take me up on it, if you have any other questions, let me know and email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.

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