A knot formed in my stomach. I had nowhere to go, so I just turned around and faced the back of the cage. I knew he could see me, but I was too embarrassed to face him.
Ad Seg (the Hole) is where the worst of the worst are sent. About 98% of the men that are in the Hole are here because they did something very bad. The Hole is the jail inside the prison. It’s a true shame to be a resident of the Hole.
It’s a surprise to those who see me there, who know my character. Since the Hole is its own world, when prison staff and officers who work elsewhere, and pick up a few overtime hours here, see me, their reactions are always humbling. Just yesterday an officer who knew me at my old facility was passing out dinner plates, and he saw me through the window. “What are you doing here?” he asked, genuinely surprised. “I’ve seen it all now!”
He could not believe it. I shared my journey to Ad Seg, and he was dumbfounded. The rest of the night, every time he passed by, he nodded to me, sharing a little unspoken friendship.
This encounter was not unique. Over and over again officers and staff have been taken aback by my presence in such a dark place. Their experiences with me, and what they have heard about me, place me outside of Ad Seg. To them, I’m a square peg in a round hole. But there are also officers who take delight in finding someone like me in this place.
Unfortunately, not all officers appreciate inmates like me. These types of officers lean toward liking the inmate who “keeps it real.” To them, “real” means continuing the life of crime that brought them to prison in the first place. Called “the thug life” by many, it is what these officers like to see. Why? I don’t know.
These officers don’t like what I represent or how I help others change their thinking. To them, I represent softness and a need for a crutch, like the Bible. It’s difficult to be around officers who think like this, so normally I avoid them as much as possible. Those choices aren’t available to me in the Hole.
Every time an officer of this type sees me, not only does he laugh, but he tells me I’m a loser – how fake I am, and how he always knew it – how the Hole is the perfect place for me. It’s rude and immature, but I hear it often.
Coming back from visit, I was being taken to the stand-up cage for transitional purposes. As I approached the cage I saw one of the officers from my old yard who was one of the worst offenders. I knew that if he saw me he would not hold back. He would pat me down in the most humiliating way he could. As I was placed in the cage a knot formed in my stomach. A wave of embarrassment came over me, and I didn’t know what to do. I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to make eye contact, so I faced the rear of the cage.
“Lookie, lookie!” he said as he approached the cage. “The piece of …… (he described me as dog poop) has arrived.” He continued speaking, painting me as the lowest of the low, laughing as he spoke.
I felt humiliated. His words actually stung. His laughter was like rubbing salt in an open wound. I began to feel like that piece of dog poop. I had no response. All I did was stare at the rear of the cage, silent.
My time came to be taken back to my cell. The officer who took me was one of the regular officers assigned to the Hole. Obviously he had witnessed what had just taken place, but he also knew the type of resident I’ve been. Halfway up the stairs he stopped our forward movement and told me to face the wall. I didn’t know what was happening, but I obeyed.
“Torres,” he said. “You hear me?” I nodded my head. “I see who you are. You are not to be defined by this Hole, or this circumstance. You understand?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. He then brought me back to my cell. No more words were exchanged between us. He had made his point, and I clearly understood.
Once inside, and after I was calm, I thought back to what he said. He was right – the Hole and my current circumstances do not define who I am. My life – my faith! – are not based on situations but rooted in a living, caring, and loving God. No matter what others may think, I am defined by the One Who saved me and adopted me as His son.
We, you and I, don’t belong to this world. We don’t belong to our past. Our current circumstances don’t own us either. We must not allow ourselves to be trapped by all these things. We are only defined by our Savior, Yeshua the Messiah.
The God Who claims us as His children is the only One we need to please. May I practice this each moment of my day, no matter where I am.
………not ashamed to be His……….
Adrian G. Torres