It is intriguing to think about all the individuals who have walked the halls of USP Leavenworth over the past 100 years. Some of the infamous individuals who might ring a bell, include: Duane Earl Pope, Michael Vick, George aka Machine Gun Kelly, James Early Ray, Leonard Peltier and George Moran. But to me, the most interesting person to inhabit and walk the halls of USP Leavenworth has to be Robert Stroud.
Few have probably heard of the violent intellectual who was held at USP Leavenworth from 1912 to 1942, and was later transferred to the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in 1942. Having been convicted for manslaughter in 1909 and coincidentally murdering a corrections officer in 1916, while serving time at USP Leavenworth, he was ultimately given a life sentence. To quench his thirst for knowledge, Stroud spent a majority of his time raising and studying birds in his cell. In face, he became a leading ornithologist, wrote two books, and made significant contributions to the field of ornithology. Proving that prison, or various other trials and tribulations you face in life, doesn’t have to be the end of your life, but rather the start to a much better one. If, and only if, you use your time wisely, and learn from your past mistakes.
Consequently, federal prison showed me how good I had it out there. An experience I am truly grateful for. I’ll never take my freedom for granted ever again. To move and make decisions on my own. Recently, I read the book Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A book that provided yet another entirely different perspective of my time in prison. In the book, Dostoyevsky states, “For broad understanding and deep feeling, you need pain and suffering.” Without it, I would have continued to be an entitled and ungrateful little shit. It would be fair to say that the pain and suffering I have continued to experience has humbled me to my very core, and provided me with the tools to turn the adversity I experience into my greatest asset.
Furthermore, Dostoyevsky goes on to say, “Really great men must experience great sadness.” Reiterating what I have been saying all post ling. That although my imprisonment has its extreme disadvantages and has caused a considerable amount of pain and discomfort to my family and I; I’ve also been given a tremendous opportunity to grow. In a thought provoking way, I’m sort of living like a Buddhist monk. For I practice celibacy, wear the same and mundane uniform as everyone else, live in a cell and eat in a group as one. Leavenworth the monastery? Weird yet palpable comparison, isn’t it?
Anyway, what I want you to take from all of this, is that we need pain and suffering, and my prison experience is just one extreme example of the hardships you might face. We are creatures of comfort and don’t like to leave that comfort zone, but I am challenging you to do just that. Embrace all your hardships and try to find the meaning in it all. We don’t grow when times are good and we are comfortable. Only when we are extremely uncomfortable and in deep pain. Plus, it will only make matters worse if you try to hide from your problems. Therefore, start embracing all of the pain and suffering that comes your way, and enjoy the strong and resilient person that you will become!
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