The Problem with Luther in Prison

I have a friend who is in prison. He’s in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Upfront, I’ll say my friend Luther, got caught up in something stupid. He was guilty and now he’s serving his time.

I got to give Luther a hug in the courthouse before he was sentenced. And he promised me he would make good use of his time in prison. He really wanted to learn woodworking and get some training in HVAC , so he could come home, get a job with an air-condition/heating company and take care of his daughters. That was the plan. He was going to make the most of the situation.

His plan was a good one but I’ve learned that’s not the way the prison system works. In six months Luther has been moved seven times. He’s signed up to take classes and to work on his GED when he first went in….he’s still waiting…six months later to attend a class. It seems to me teaching an inmate a new trade, a way to better himself, a way to support himself , should be a priority. But that’s not how it works….at least not for Luther.

If a man can support himself, maybe he won’t end up in prison again. Maybe he will change his stars, change his life, and never go back to prison. Isn’t that what they want?

I don’t know….if that’s what the Department of Corrections wanted wouldn’t they make that a priority?

In the beginning, while Luther was waiting to go to an Arkansas State Prison, he was held in several county jails. The first was fine. The second, in Camden Arkansas, was insane. Inmates there were not allowed to have books. BOOKS! Generally jails and prisons allow inmates to receive paperbacks via Amazon. I would think jails and prisons would want inmates to read instead of other things. Not Camden. No books….at all.

Finally, I called to ask some tough questions about that policy. The deputy on the phone admitted inmates could have a Bible or Koran….soft cover…but I had to hand deliver it. So I drove three hours to give Luther a Bible.

In the last four months Luther has been moved in and out of several Arkansas prisons. He always asks for classes but has never gotten into any, and then he’s been moved again and again.

Luther told me last week he’d been moved again, this time to Texas. They didn’t tell him why. Nobody has to explain things to inmates. So far, no classes, no learning just more of the same.

We all know Einstein’s definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Our prison system is not just flawed, it’s a nightmare. The Luthers of the world admit they’ve done wrong. They go to prison hoping they can learn something new, but the system won’t allow that to happen.

America locks up more people every year than any other country in the world. There are countries like India and China, who are much bigger…but we lock up more. And most who go to prison in America end up going back, over and over. Check out the numbers 50 to 75 percent of inmates end up back in prison.

It’s a big business keeping people locked up. A lot of people are making a ton of money keeping Luthers locked up.

Maybe nobody wants my friend Luther to learn a new trade. Maybe they don’t want him to become a better man. Maybe they are betting their future on Luther returning to prison.

Romantic Gazpacho

Today, as my husband, Alex, fell asleep on the couch watching Michigan football, I made a batch of Gazpacho. It’s a cold Spanish soup with pureed tomatoes as a base then peppers, onion, celery and cucumbers.

Twenty five years ago, when Alex and I were first dating, he was trying to renovate his five acre redneck ranch. (We still live in the same house) Alex is a chef, not a contractor, so it was slow going. I called him, “Hey, since you bought dinner last night I’m bringing you a surprise lunch.”

He sounded excited that I was coming out to check out his house and bring lunch. He gave me explicit directions and the address.

I stopped at a little café in Hot Springs and bought some Gazpacho and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. I felt very sophisticated and confident that Alex, the handsome, swarthy chef would be impressed.

Finding the entrance of our driveway has always been nearly impossible. It’s like finding the entrance to Narnia. With my gazpacho and sandwiches on the front seat I drove past the driveway over and over, finally I drove four miles back to a little gas station and asked to use the phone

Frustrated and embarrassed I called Alex in tears. He laughed at me gently and said he would stand at the bottom of the driveway, so I couldn’t miss the turn.

We sat down in the living room and I tried not to show my concern when I looked around the house. It was a wreck. There were so many half finished projects and power tools everywhere.

But I proudly presented my lunch. I poured the Gazpacho into bowls, carefully placed the crotons on top and handed Alex a plastic spoon. then I unwrapped our delicate little grilled cheese sandwiches.

Alex smiled at me, “Wow, thank you. This is great.” He took a bite of soup. “It’s really good. You want a beer?”

We shared a cold can of Bush and ate lunch while he told me all the things he planned for the house. He ate the Gazpacho so fast I barely got any and that made me so happy.

Alex and I have been married for 23 years now. We’ve raised four kids, buried dogs and watched a lot of football. What I didn’t know all those years ago was that Alex absolutely hates tomatoes. He picks them out of everything. When he saw me making Gazpacho today, he gave me a hug and whispered “gross.”

Love, it’ll make you do all kinds of crazy stuff.

Almost The Sweetest Valentine…Ever

There seem to be two kinds of women in America, 1. Those who hate Valentine’s day; they think it’s a commercial ruse that inflicts ridiculously high expectations. Lots of women boycott the holiday on principal.

2. Then there are those who buy in and go hard. Their men must spend at least a hundred dollars on candy, flowers, food and cards or he clearly “doesn’t love or appreciate you enough.”

Both ideas are kind of dumb and unnecessarily harsh. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a holiday that encourages love. But taking a second mortgage out on the house to prove our love seems kinda moronic too.

Yesterday, after being “together” and married for 25 years, I think, Alex got it absolutely right.

First, there was a scribbled note on half a sheet of notebook paper next to the coffee pot.  All it said was, “Will you be my Valentine?” Nice! And there were two Hershey kisses. Perfect, he remembered the day! Pretty immature and adorable. Well done sir!

When I got home there were daffodils he’d picked in a vase and he fixed dinner! I’m trying to lose weight on the low carb diet right now and he took that into consideration…steak and lobster while we watched a new episode of The Big Bang Theory. Killed it.

But the best part of this Valentine’s Day? He changed the sheets on our bed…all on his own…without me asking. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought about how great those sheets felt as he snored next to me like a jacked up Harley Davidson.

Thank you Alex. You get a 10 out of 10 this year!