Archive for March, 2011

March 30, 2011


One of the best television shows currently airing is Investigation Discovery’s (ID) “True Crime with Aphrodite Jones“. If the first season is indication of what the future of this extraordinary show will reveal, the second season is bound to offer some of the most astute and orginal explorations of contemporary crime ever done.

Season Two begins Thursday, March 31, from 10:00 – 11:00 EST.

Here’s a superb press release on the show. It’s a series, so note the future shows. Do not miss them.

And the trailer. From Investigative Discovery.

The authenticity of the show lies in several areas. Aphrodite has secured unprecedented access to a number of key individuals associated with each and every case in the series. Now, in t.v. journalism, or in a reality crime show as such, this may not seem original. But, it is.

Aphrodite’s access enables her to sift through and present information and details that have frequently not yet surfaced. In doing so, as cases in the first season evidenced, the deeper a case goes (the more minutes into the show), the more we observe the depth of understanding Aphrodite has for victims or family or acquaintances or officials involved with a case. Her persona does not come across as trite. Her patience in handling interviews and details contributes to this authenticity, and yet she’s exuberant and opinionized once we realize she’s discovered new case details in the process of doing a show.

The commercials don’t necessarily break the rhythm of how deeply Aphrodite delves into these cases. ID’s commercials – every channel breathes because of them – don’t disturb the deepening scenarios. You know the case is going deeper until Aphrodite captures some serious closure. In some cases, it may not even be closure for Aphrodite; it may be an unsettling, mystifying end to a case. But, she’s tackled it from her perspective, and she is confident of the story she ‘s presented. Again, it’s a bullseye perspective.

Aphrodite’s first investigation – the first show – deals with the festering chaos and dumbfounding investigation over years of the case of Colorado’s JonBenet Ramsey, as her murder 15 years ago startled the country’s imagination.

The second show features an exploration of past and new details surrounding the death of celeb Anna Nicole Smith.

RED! will be following the show and presenting updates with Aphrodite.  One of the genuinely hardest working journalists in television (and print), she is also one of the most generous.

Check out her website and order her best-selling books.

March 22, 2011

Ryan Widmer: Fourth Time’s a Charm? a column by Angela Derrick

“But once you tell your story into the law, it becomes the object of a precise semantic dissection. The whole of the story is of no interest; instead, patient surgeons of language wait and watch, snip and assay, looking for certain phrases, certain words. Particular locutions trip particular legal switches, and set a heavy machine in motion.”
–D. Graham Burnett
“The duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”
–American Bar Association Standards for Criminal Justice

I have just dried off after conducting an experiment: after stepping from my shower at approximately 1:13 p.m. I refrained from using a towel on both my long hair and my body. I wanted to see how long it would take to dry without the aid of a towel or any other implement. At 1:15 my hands were completely dry, my hair was still dripping wet and other parts of my body were rapidly drying. By 1:18 there were a few drops of water left on my forearms but they were otherwise dry. My stomach, upper thighs, lower legs and back had all dried completely. A few drops of water remained on my upper arms from my still wet hair. It took just five minutes for me to dry naturally, no towels involved, but my hair was wet, very wet. Indeed, right now, as I write this, at 1:45 p.m., my hair is still wet.

Why the experiment? I have long hair, just like Sarah Widmer and I wanted to see for myself if a body dries faster than hair. The answer is yes. A body does indeed dry faster. Hair does stay wet considerably longer and there is nothing sinister involved. It is a plain and simple fact.

Who is Sarah Widmer and why should you care? In 2008, 24-year old Sarah drowned in her bathtub and within two days her 27-year old husband Ryan was charged with murdering her. Now, after three trials, the State of Ohio, at the conclusion of a recent third trial, has sentenced Ryan Widmer to fifteen years to life in prison. One of the main lynchpins of the prosecution’s case centered around the premise that, because her hair was wet while the rest of her body was dry, she seemed to have dried in the space of the 6 ½-minute interval of Ryan Widmer’s call to 911 and emergency officials’ arrival, and as a result, this indicated that he drowned her. Interestingly enough, none of her false fingernails were dislodged or had come off her fingers, something one would think might occur in a struggle involving a drowning. There was no water splashed on the floor and no wet towels indicating he had cleaned up water. Sarah was reportedly known to fall asleep frequently in odd places and at odd times. The Widmer’s family, friends, and Sarah’s coworkers and employer all corroborated this. It was a fact of testimony during the trial that Sarah Widmer had a condition of falling asleep at unexpected moments, even in odd places like Bengals games.

There was a simple way to check to see if Sarah Widmer suffered from any undiagnosed neurological diseases or disorders: perform a brain autopsy. The procedure for a brain autopsy is very specific. It involves a process called “fixing the brain,” in which the brain tissue is immersed in a formalin solution for a period of 10 to 14 days following the regular autopsy. According to Southwestern Medical Center, an autopsy brain evaluation allows neuropathologists to examine tissues for neoplastic, infectious, inflammatory, demyelinating, degenerative, vascular, traumatic, metabolic, and developmental disorders. “Inspecting the brain often reveals some surprises,” writes pathologist Dr. Ed Friedlander. “A good pathologist takes some time to do this.”

Why didn’t the coroner, Dr. Russell Uptegrove, know that any brain diseases or brain disorders wouldn’t be visible the day after death? Why didn’t he take the time to rule out this very real possibility?

The Ohio State Coroner’s Association (OSCA) states: “The Coroner is charged by law with the responsibility of determining the cause, mode, and manner of death. The determination of the anatomic cause of death is a medical aspect while the legal interest is all-inclusive and requires that all factors of causation, the mode and manner, as well as the anatomic cause of death be established. The two aspects are so interrelated that they cannot be separated; therefore equal consideration must be given to the medical and legal phases of investigation.”

The presence of two blood stains on the carpet were mentioned during testimony without including the facts that paramedics had noted vaginal bleeding from Sarah Widmer and that feminine sanitary product wrappings in the bathroom waste can were clearly visible in photographs of the bathroom. According to the Department of Forensic Medicine, London Hospital Medical College, “The phase of the menstrual cycle at death is easily determined by a histological (microscopic) examination of endometrial tissue.” It would have been easy to determine if Sarah Widmer was menstruating at the time of her death. Did the Coroner make this determination? This seems like a crucial piece of evidence. If not, why not?

If the state was sure they had a case, why not conduct a brain autopsy in the standard way? If not, why not? If the state was correct in their theory, they would have had nothing to lose. It would have only strengthened their case. So, why the rush?

The question of motive remains murky, and in a criminal case where we are locking someone up for perhaps the rest of his life, how can we do so with an uncertainty as to absolute guilt? To be found guilty of a crime, two elements must be satisfied: that a crime actually occurred and that the person charged had the intent to commit the crime.

How can anyone say beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime actually occurred when all of the proper medical testing was not conducted? Where is the motive in this case; the criminal intent to purposefully commit murder? One of the jurors from the most recent trial reportedly told a news reporter, “We think something happened and he just snapped.” If that is what the jury believed, the jury should have found him not guilty of murder, because that notion does not fit the legal definition of a murder conviction. What the juror described aligns with the legal definition of “voluntary manslaughter.” Did the jury even understand the instructions they were given by the court judge?

Following this last, third trial, several jurors gave statements to the press, expressing that the most bothersome things were that Sarah’s body was completely dry, and that the evidence did not support the defense’s theory that Sarah Widmer had a seizure or medical condition.

It seems clear from the comments made by certain jurors, after this third trial, that they didn’t fully understand the instructions they were given. The legal “burden of proof” rests upon the state, not upon the defendant. A juror allegedly told a friend in pretrial, “Don’t worry about the Widmer case. We all talked about it and we know he is guilty. He is going to burn in hell.” This juror should not have served on the jury. Our jury system is built upon the premise of impartiality. What this juror did was create a biased, tainted jury that likely insured Ryan Widmer could not receive a fair trial.

In our culture we want an explanation for everything. And we want it now. I don’t even believe that a murder occurred. A death occurred. Sarah Widmer, tragically is no longer with us. A review of medical literature reveals that medical doctors are aware that sometimes seemingly healthy young people die for no apparent reason and with little or no warning. Tragic. Now, the tragedy has been compounded by the fact that it has been turned into a murder that presumably wasn’t. Now, a family has lost both a daughter and a son.

Juries make mistakes. This is an indisputable reality that is backed up by the growing number of exonerations of wrongful convictions. A recent study showed that, in as many as six percent of all trials, the jury gets it wrong. That is an alarming statistic. Just think if it was your loved one, your son or daughter, husband or wife wrongfully locked up for something they didn’t do. Just think if it was you.

There are too many unanswered questions, too many doubts, and not enough evidence to satisfy the burden of proof. There was no sign of a struggle, questionable reasoning on the part of the detectives, and a seeming rush to charge and indict. Better to be methodical and reach the correct conclusion than embark on a mad dash to conviction.

The judicial standard of the term “beyond a reasonable doubt” has not been met. The coroner did not perform the proper autopsy to rule out that Sarah Widmer did not have an unknown neurological condition. To be guilty of a crime, a suspect must be proven guilty “beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.” We don’t have that here. Reasonable doubt remains.

The defense currently has two motions in front of the court: one motion for a new trial based upon improper comments made by jurors that biased the jury depriving Ryan Widmer of his fundamental right to an impartial jury under the Sixth Amendment, and a second motion for acquittal, requesting the court to set aside his murder conviction on the basis that all of the elements of murder have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Both motions have merit, but I believe that the reason we could be looking at the likelihood of a fourth trial is the fact that the evidence does not support the scenario presented by the Prosecution, and this in and of itself is problematic and an inescapable fact because facts do not change. Whether there is a fourth trial or not, facts can’t be altered to support the story we want to believe.

All of the evidence appears to point to one necessary outcome: acquittal. Like it or not, the evidence does not currently support a murder conviction.

March 15, 2011

Jailhouse Conversion – by Karyn Alexander

From Disco Dude to a Divine Destiny

It started like any normal weekend night for Mike. The year was 1980.

A freshman in college, Mike donned his best disco outfit to prepare for an evening with his drinking buddies. The event of the evening was a date with “drink and drown” at the dance club.

Sporting his best white silk pants, black silk shirt, and large gold chain, Mike looked like a good facsimile of John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever.

Mike’s stature at 6’2” tall, with slim and dark hair, revealed a man of the town. Swaggering from his bright orange Pinto, Mike entered the bar with great enthusiasm for a big night of drunkenness.

A good Catholic boy, Mike was raised in the church. He was an altar boy, knew the Ten Commandments, and was water baptized as a baby. In the “God Club,” so he thought, he led a life of duplicity.

Drinking with the priest on weekends, his religion was nothing but a social obligation.

During his high school days, he had begun a life of stealing and lying. Stealing was a hobby he knew was wrong, yet the convictions he lacked could not reprimand or restrain his behavior. Having a moral compass of sorts, he saw the error of his way, but witnessed in his elders a contradiction of values.

Mike’s home life was one of ridicule and verbal abuse. Mike’s father drank heavily; he was abusive and toxic to all of the family members. He was cruel when addressing the kids, Mike being one of four children. His father’s mean spirit and dissatisfaction with his own life spilled to his frightened wife, and even played out in sadistic suggestions to Mike.

On one occasion, Mike’s father asked him to strike a match and hold it to his father’s arm, burning him on purpose. He was only a child and knew he should obey, but his father’s request bread a chronic pattern of people-pleasing out of fear of being rejected and severely scolded. Mike’s makeup was one of chaos from the confusion of his father’s drunken and unloving encounters. The love that should have been a father’s was absent and replaced with unpredictable angry outbursts, and with wild hateful comments that ruled Mike’s mind and life.

During an escapade at the local Sears store, Mike was caught shoplifting. This was his second offense. He had lied about the first, calling his neighbor to bail him out. She had pretended to be his mother.

This time, however, security called directly to his home and contacted his father. The response was devastating as his father said, “I love you conditionally,” meaning, I no longer love you because you are a thief. At that juncture, Mike was thrown out of the house. Still a minor, he was sleeping in his car until he was able to move in with his older sister. Love had been cruel, and his worst nightmare had come true. “I am rejected because I am not worthy to be in my father’s life. He will only love me when I meet his expectations; that is, when I am good.”

Mike’s insecurities intensified at this time. He went so far as to fake a burglary at his apartment to show he was unsafe, and, therefore, able to regain access to his home and father. One would ask, why would anyone want to go back to an abusive person? We all know how much a parent’s love means to us, so any of us might have responded similarly.

Mike was allowed home again, which answered our question as to “why?” “I guess I missed the abuse,” he said.

Mike was looking for the love and acceptance that he thought needed to come from Dear ol’Dad; bad attention was better than no attention.

During Mike’s tumultuous years, his two brothers began attending a non-denominational church. They asked if he would attend. He thought it sounded boring. They were talking about something called “being saved.”

Mike felt something was missing in his heart, but didn’t feel the church was his “thing.”
Ironically, though, out of the blue one day, a thought came into mike’s head: “Oh, My God, I need to go to confession.” Strangely enough, he did. Nothing seemed to happen, except that he had obeyed his conscience.

Back to our eventful disco night. Mike was a suave guy. He was big, bad, and beautiful. He danced the night away, drinking wildly. He said he danced with everyone in the place. His stylish ensemble, along with his personality, was the hit of the show. “Give me the hose” – a call for more alcohol – left our disco dancer more than full of fun.

As the night wound down, Mike left the bar alone, got into his car and promptly ran a red light. Not a second after his infraction, he was pulled over and arrested. He had 12 previous points on his record, so he was arrested for driving on a suspended license. He was placed in the front seat of the cruiser, and told, “You are going to jail.”

Thoughts of self-admonishment ran through Mike’s mind. “I’m a criminal, I suck, I’m obviously not doing things right.”

Mike was handcuffed and taken to jail. All he could think was how surreal it all felt. “Where are my friends now?” he thought.

“You have one phone call,” explained the sheriff. Mike thought it was all so surreal~ perhaps he was on a TV show. Not so. He was booked, photographed, and walked to a cell.

Placed in a cement cell with an L shaped concrete bench, Mike entered the already occupied holding tank. Two men were lying on the benches. Mike decided to sit on the floor. His first thought was, “My white silk pants are going to be filthy!” He sat down anyway. His attitude had been one of apathy, and even flippant until the door of the cell closed. Mike decided to take the only spot left in the tank, and he sat next to the toilet and dozed off.

What awoke Mike was a loud clanking noise. A metal pole was being raked across the cell bars by the uniformed guard. Mike woke, startled, seeing a much different landscape than his original entrance to the cell.

Sitting on the toilet next to his head, “taking a crap,” was a new resident of the cell.

Mike looked around and thought to himself, “Lucky me, I am the only white guy in here.”

Surrounding Mike were men bragging about their offenses. They called out things like, grand theft, robbing a bank, beating up mom. Far from his mind was the filth on his silk trousers; more so, it was the reality that he was not safe. Being surrounded by 13 men who gave off the “I’m not moving for whitie” vibe made for a very uncomfortable evening. All Mike could think was, “They are criminals with guns who could give a shit about me or anyone. I was freaked,” he said.

At that very moment, the light went on. “What have I done that has brought me to this place?” He felt he had no other choice but to say, “All right, God, I give this all to you. I am sorry for my sins. Whatever my brothers have, I want it too [salvation]. I am asking you to come into my life.”

A calm feeling came over Mike, as he slipped off to sleep again.

The sound of metal hitting the cell bars awoke him for a second time. Sugar donuts were being passed around; his name was called, and he was taken off to a court room.

Mike was released that morning. He hitchhiked home in his soiled evening Disco-wear, and found himself wondering where his life would go from here. He attended church that week with his brothers and went to the altar for prayer. Mike expressed his gratefulness to God, and wept as he felt the Holy Spirit come into his life. He asked Jesus to be the Lord over everything in his life. He finally felt the love of God. He knew God would be the father he needed, filling the void his own father had left years before.

Over the next few months, Mike knew there was more to life than what he had been doing before his arrest. He had been working, drinking; going no-where.

 As he was re-baptized, he asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do?”

Strangely enough, a sign came. Sitting on his desk the very next day was a sticky note that said, “Go into all the Earth and preach the good news.” Matthew 28
Mike knew he was being called to spread the Gospel- The love of God.

Fast forward–Thirty years later: I asked Mike how the scripture and calling had impacted his life. Where was he now? How had the jailhouse conversion and subsequent call been fulfilled?

Mike had gone into ministry training, but had not completed it. He still struggled with the old inferiority feelings and unworthiness from his father’s abuse. He married and had three, grown Christian children. He felt his role as a father was fulfilled in raising Christian children and breaking an ungodly curse of abuse.

His commitment is now renewed to serve, as his station in life has changed. He is now able to give himself to others, as his “nest” is empty. I asked Mike if he could share any wisdom about his experience. He responded with the thought that many. like himself, might view their heavenly father with the same eyes they view their earthly father. It is easy to confuse our emotions when we have suffered rejection and pain. We may imprint our natural father’s behavior onto our relationship to God, which causes us to see Him wrongly.

Mike expressed that there is hope for us because God came to him at his worst hour. He was not abandoned or set aside, rejected or unworthy. It was the hour when a human had failed; his own father had abandoned him. In the same hour, his true and loving heavenly father stepped in to save and love him in a more profound and eternal way.

I asked if he was in ministry now, and he said, “I don’t have that story to tell yet. I am still working out what that really means.”

So, for this Disco dancer, a date with Destiny was waiting in a jail cell so many years ago; not in a Church, but patiently waiting upon Mike for a place to open in his heart.

God bless,


Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House


Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language, and nation.”









March 15, 2011

Mistakes 143 – by Demetrius ‘Hook’ Mitchell


It’s been quite a long time since I have written words for my column, Mistakes 143, in RED! the breakthrough ‘zine.

It hurts because the editors and staff have been so supportive to me and to my growth over these blessed years.

Over the past seven to eight months, I have gone through certain transitions: from reception in prison to “mainline” (general prison population) to where I am currently – “Fire Camp,” our term for it, a facility in northern California.

Time and knowledge govern my current existence. My kingdom is not primarily affected by the norms of True Society. But, my time and reality are focused on one thing, and that is to be the best possible person that “I” can be,.

I seek knowledge of things such as meteorology, gravity, hydrostatics and dynamics, climatology, hygrometry, and a dozen other sciences involved in my reading. And no man completely masters all of them, yet this relates to only one of the millions of facts in physical nature, which are governed by the One that holds the key to all knowledge and laws. Still, I seek out every piece of information that I can to change “me”.

I will soon be back to the norms of the world, “focused” and changing lives.

In life, mistakes are made (nature’s human inclinations), and out of these mistakes one can make that change and ultimately make a difference in society. That’s where #30 AT is at.

Editor’s Note: Read these early columns by Hook Mitchell.

March 8, 2011

Raised Up — Action Words by Frances L. McDaniel

My name is Frances L. (Roberson) McDaniel. But, everyone calls me “Bootsy”. Only, in terms of history, a portion of my classmates calls me Frances. I actually prefer Bootsy.

I thought that I would go into the Marines. That was one of my childhood dreams. People would probably never have believed that. At any rate, I became pregnant at 16-years old and I chose to keep my daughter when, during the pregnancy, I felt her kick inside. I was determined to take care of her no matter what.

I began committing crimes at a young age; I’ve truly forgotten how old I was. I wasn’t using drugs. Money was something that drove me and having more things all the time. I bought my first car and I never had a driver’s license. Amazing. Before I write further, I want to say that I come from an amazing mother. I wasn’t raised in the projects. Actually, I grew up in Grosbeck; if you are from Cincinnati, Ohio, you probably know about the suburbs. Then, as I became a little older, I was raised in Madisonville, in a nice neighborhood at that time.

My mother took really good care of her girls. The only complaint I can honestly say is that we had to wear dresses summer, winter, spring, and fall. Church was mandatory. We never were hungry. So, basically, what I am saying is that I have no excuse for the life I lead. Checks were my main crime of choice. I’ve never been violent – except only toward myself. Eventually, I started using drugs because I knew what I was doing was wrong, and I used drugs to cover up.

I became addicted to all the bad habits. Now, I sit in a federal prison because I just committed crimes to live my life. Don’t get me wrong. I have worked before, but I never held a steady job for long periods. I slowed down temporarily, got married, and thought I was going to live normally. However, Satan had plans.

I started committing crimes a little at a time. Finally, my life started falling apart, so I separated my children and left town with my youngest. I left my husband; I thought that was better. The good thing was that when I left, I worked hard in three jobs at one time. But, I was alone: only myself and my baby girl. Eventually, things turned bad and I had to bring my baby home. Then I left Cincinnati again. I was doing this because I didn’t want to go to jail, being alone in a state where I didn’t have any family and friends. I didn’t turn to crime as a result of an abusive man and then drugs. I had never been hit by a man, so I thought he would not hit me again – he promised. But, it was a vicious cycle. (I’m doing a lot of jumping around, because life my life would probably make a best-seller.)

God made it to where my testimony is worth telling, and he’s not finished with me yet. I’ve lived in several different cities and states. When I lived in South Carolina (Edgefield), I lived on a couple of migrant camps. Well, I was stabbed four times in the back and the side of my face. I lived to tell about it. I don’t know why it happened. But, God was with me.

I’ve been put in dangerous situations that only God pulled me through. When I came home, I started back in the game and lived inside of jail and outside. That was my life: drugs, money, and jail. It came to a point in my life where I tried to take my own life in a crazy way. I’m here to talk about it. I stabbed myself in the stomach so many times I lost count, and I cut my wrists. But for some reason I just wouldn’t die.

Now, that was who I was ten years ago. In 2006 I started my madness over again and I decided that I didn’t want to live. I bought a gun and every day I sat with it on my bed loaded. My only reason I’m not dead is that I lived with my daughter, and my son decided he wanted to be up under me, too. My life was crazy and I was so tired.

Well, I’m in prison. All the things I was out there doing caught up with me. So, God placed me here to save my life. I’m sitting in prison today, in late 2010, and my life has changed drastically. I’m over the prison’s dance ministry called “New Generation”. I’m also active in the choir and praise team. I work at Unicor; it is a call center. My work as a volunteer in Hospice has truly opened my eyes to how cruel life can be.

I have taken different classes while here in prison. I’m starting my G.E.D. program over again. I’m very determined to accomplish that goal. I’m 44-years old and I’ve learned how to stomp and praise dance. I’ve lost a lot of weight and my health is improving all because of God’s grace.

So, this is a little about myself. I have a living testimony, and I truly hope that something in my life will help someone.

I appreciate the Bible verse, Romans 9:17 – “I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying my power in dealing with you, so that my name may be proclaimed the whole world over.”

God has a plan and purpose for my life and I’m waiting. During this process he is raising me up to do great things.

March 8, 2011

PILE DRIVEN – PART IV by Brian Crawford

PILE  DRIVEN – PART IV: “Empowered by Change”

Action Words – Essay by Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

I present the new installment of my series, Pile Driven: Empowered by Change.

It’s May, 2010, and I’m now at Marion Correctional Institution. Since I last wrote “Pile Driven – Part III,” I have undergone a lot of change. My security status dropped and I was moved from one of Ohio’s toughest prisons to one of Ohio’s safest and most religious prisons. This has been after two-and-a-half years of praying that the Lord would lead me down a safe path in what has ultimately been his plan for me.

I felt upon leaving Southern Ohio Correctional Facility that my work was done. Many lives changed there as a part of the work I did for the Lord. I now leave behind many good brothers to continue the Lord’s work. As for me, I knew I had to embrace this change and the good at my new home at M.C.I.

As my feet were shackled and my hands were cuffed to my waist, I sat quietly in the back of a prison bus with tears streaming down my face as I saw God’s beauty outside the walls of Lucasville. I talked to God and asked him to one day set me free and let the truth of my innocence be known.

At that moment I also knew that I had to focus on God’s will for me at M.C.I. once I arrived. All I could think about was the chapel. After all, to me, that is the most peaceful place in prison. I had always heard so much about chapel services at M.C.I. and I was so ready to see the reality of it. In my essays, “Pile Driven #1, 2, and 3,” I spoke of the ups and downs of attendance of guys at S.O.C.F.  Many times it was dark and discouraging due to the small number of inmates attending. However, don’t get me wrong, because at times  those few guys brought so many blessings and we would worship the Lord as if there were hundreds attending.

So, then, the day was here: my first Sunday at M.C.I. chapel services. I grabbed my Bible and made my way to the chapel, feeling the butterflies in my stomach. I could hear a choir singing and music playing as I got ever so close to those double doors. Finally, I was there. I opened the doors to see a chapel packed full, wall to wall with inmates praising God, smiling, and singing.

I felt a lump in my throat as I found a seat. My emotions immediately took over as I felt the Holy Spirit. I felt as if I was home again at a regular church. The choir continued to sing and I felt free at that point and tears rolled down my face. I knew after that service that I was right on track for what God has in store for me.

Change is never easy and I’ve had many things to overcome and still deal with on a daily basis, but when each day is over I can close my eyes and say, “Thank the Lord for another day of my life and a chance to serve you.” My mission is now here at M.C.I. and there are still many out there that need to know God loves them and they can be saved. Although this innocent man that I am still suffers, I know I must embrace this change and keep living for God.

My faith is growing in my heart and mind every day. No matter where I go, I will surround myself with good and walk away from evil. Oh, it’s not all “peaches and cream.” Satan is not happy with me right now and he tries to tempt me all the time. When he does, I just smile and say, “Nice try. But you lose.” Now, of course, the devil will not stop trying to ruin my days, but I look at it this way: I’m a child of the Most High God and my God will not allow Satan to do anything to me without his permission. If something would happen I can always go back and look at what Job went through in the Bible and know it was or is a test. I will pass the test! I’m not afraid anymore!

Now, some days I watch television and I see our world heading toward Bible prophecy and I do worry. I wish many more people would give their lives to Jesus before it’s too late. I’m only one man and I know I cannot help them all, but if I can just keep proving my walk – that God is real – then I’ve done my job. I fought the good fight and will be ready to go with my Christian brothers and sisters to be with our Lord in heaven.

So, what about you? If you’re out there and you don’t know the Lord as your savior, as yourself a question: If I died today, where would I go? Some people say they don’t believe in anything, but think about it. Would you rather die believing in something and know you did good in this world, or would you want to die believing in nothing and possibly face horrible consequences in the afterlife? I think the answer is easy. If you’re out there and going through chance, then “embrace it” – put God first in your life and the rest is easy.

Thank you for reading my words in this essay and God bless you all.

Read other stories by Brian Crawford:

Pile Driven— Part I
Pile Driven—Part II
Pile Driven—Part III


Editor’s note: visit  for further information on supporters of Brian Crawford’s case.  Mr. Crawford has been a dedicated writer and contributor to RED! the breakthrough ‘zine since 2008. We urge you to read his other work, including parts 1,2, and 3 of his PILE DRIVEN series. He is incarcerated at Marion Correctional Institution.

March 3, 2011

PARTNERS WITH JUSTICE – April 2011 Meeting

Partners with Justice (PWJ), a tremendous advocacy organization in Ohio, will hold its next monthly meeting on Thursday, April 7, 2011, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held at Macedonia Living Word Fellowship Church, 353 West Kemper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246.  Covering issues of transformation, understanding how jails and prisons operate, and encouraging individuals whose children or loved ones are incarcerated, PWJ brings hope to many lives.

RED! is a partner with Partners with Justice.  In recent weeks, co-founders John Rogers, Diane Rogers, and JoAnn Garner have spoken with editor Jeffrey Hillard at several venues.  JoAnn, whose column “Owning Justice” is a regular feature, provides much needed and anticipated updates on the PWJ’s advocacy achievements.

Currently, of course, Diane, John, and JoAnn are focused on their continuing intense efforts to expedite the appeals process of the case of their wrongfully-incarcerated son, Willie Rogers.  Willie is currently incarcerated at Warren Correctional Institution in southwestern Ohio.  His case is unique in the manner which Diane and John utilize it to help other individuals navigate the fault-ridden and rigid justice system.  And yet, Willie’s case, in the not-so-unique way, tends to echo the obvious cases of hundreds of other individuals wrongfully incarcerated in the U.S. 

For more information, call 513-365-8064, or email

The organization’s website is

March 1, 2011

Time and Knowledge by Demetrius Hook Mitchell

Bismallah.”  Early in the a.m.

Demetrius Hook Mitchell

Hook Mitchell speaking to students at Pinole Valley High School (CA) in October, 2005

I personally believe that “Time and Knowledge” is a divine decree on man’s existence of his experience to understand changes in accordance with his (or her) environment and deeds.

In my current state: my incarceration time is spent seeking knowledge; before my work day starts, I seek it out. During my work day I seek it out, through my experience, and after my work day I seek it out through all types of human interest materials: newspapers, magazines, and reflecting on my life experiences, I learn so much from their reflections!

Thank you, God, for this understanding. (My current state is at “Fire Camp” – in northern California. It is not fire season, so we go to work five days a week. We do all kinds of work assignments in the public arena.

I’m still one step back into the prison gates, with the potential of receiving more time to my sentence. Also, I still live in an incarcerated world that is segregated, racist, and stems from politics. So, I choose to isolate myself from others (a world inside a world). Even though my peers have different mentalities (political, gang-oriented, and barbaric) they respect me. See, we are diametrically opposed to each other. Even though we are in “the same pot of coffee,” our directions are headed in different areas. I know my future is very promising. This is their home and the streets are their vacation. This reality is openly discussed.

I am not better than they are, because I am one unconscious decision from being back in their world. Consciously, I take nothing for granted.

My concentration and focus are to change the lives of others through my experiences. “Ikigai” is “that which makes one’s life worth living.” Helping others is the service I pay for my rented space on earth.

I was very blessed to recently read a term paper entitled, “Reducing Recidivism,” from a student in a Sociology 495 class; it was written on 5-16-10 by a Ms. Amanda Catchings. This sista ripped it; she aced the paper and the course (God willing), in my eyes, on this one paper.

This paper touched me so much that it helped me understand “me”” and the state of my reality and the lives I was around; plus I understand the corrections system in America. The paper allowed me to see that I am bigger than the life I – as well as Mr. Catchings’ brotha – have subjected myself to. If we could understand it.

Her concise data and research hit points on why the last 15 years of my life have been my experience (three incarceration terms). As written, her paper looked straight at the existing literature and research (her references) on the rehabilitation and services offered to inmates while in prison and during their re-entry. (But, this is true “from the outside looking in” – those perceptions are not always accurate. As opposed to “from the inside looking out, or living in it.”) Or, from my point-of-view, it’s relevant from one that has lived and viewed on both sides of this pendulum system.

I have been on this pendulum for the past 15 years. Ms. Catchings’ writing has helped me at the end of this current process of my evolution to change this epoch. Ms. Catchings wrote a subliminal message: this system in which Erin and I reside is to punish and confuse. “There’s no rehabilitation the system provides. The only precognitive notion is to rehabilitate yourself.” I am not complaining; I’m just stating facts. I placed myself in this situation. But, brace yourself for my re-entry.

Thank you, Ms. Catchings, for your views and your work in pursuit of The Truth.

I would like to provide light on things that the books, columns, journals, and reviews can’t store in your psyche. That is, the experience itself. My words are formed from a humble perception that has been visualized from both spectrums – from both sides of the fence.

Log on to or google Hook Mitchell for a view of my points.

In closing, as Ms. Catchings stated, the prison system has been a problem for many years, while she also emphasizes the number of incarcerated individuals and the number of former prisoners that confront re-incarceration after their release.

See, in my current position, I can only say so much, but I STAND FOR JUSTICE. My “time” is spent seeking knowledge.

–Peace–  #30AT

On a last note, readers, Blake Griffin, of the Los Angeles Clippers, won the N.B.A. All-Star “Dunk Contest” with the dunk that I created over 20 years ago – a Slam Dunk jumping over a car. Now, imagine that! I will perform that dunk upon my re-entry. At 42-years old, with my book entitled, “Do You Want to Learn How to Fly?”

Much love.