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You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

What is prison like

As I have in the past, I will post excerpts from my prison memoir, Prisonpath. The stories are about the inmates and correctional officers that I encountered during my fifteen months in state prison.

1/19/11 — You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

You wouldn’t notice him on the walks to the chow hall. He was about fifty years old and thin, with a gray beard and dark sad eyes. I had met him through another inmate. Other than meals, he would only go out of his cell for a shower. He remained very quiet during those times. I learned from our mutual acquaintance that he loved to read.

I spoke to him one day and started lending him books. His literary appetite was voracious. Historical fiction, mystery, literary classics, he consumed all of them. He spoke in a soft voice was always thoughtful in his conversations. One day at lunch, there was a discussion about his past and I couldn’t help myself. I asked what he was in for, “I robbed a bank,” and he looked at me.

My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open at this gentle man’s admission. He used a note to rob a bank and walked away with $1200. He was never apprehended by the police. The crime went unsolved. Two years before I met him, he was living in Portland, Oregon, where he joined a group which helped “lost souls.” He realized that he had to change his life and, “atone for his wrongs.” Ten years before that, he was a married man with kids and a small successful business that grossed $250,000. The marriage fell apart. He became an alcoholic with chronic depression. Over the next few years, after having lost his wife, he lost everything else.

After a number of meetings with this group; he decided to take back his life. The year before I met him, he contacted the police in Maryland. Needless to say, they were shocked, since the trail had gone cold. The judge was lenient and imposed a sentence of four years; two would be served before any possible chance of parole. The judge also sentenced another bank robber the same day to fifteen years in prison. I asked him if he still would have turned himself in after experiencing life as an inmate. “Sometimes, I have second thoughts,” he replied, “… but yes — a man needs to be able to live with himself. Yes. I would still have turned myself in to the police.”

By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of

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11 Responses to You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

  1. Silas January 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    What a noble man.
    By Silas

  2. Carlos January 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Curious to know what the agenda is all about. We all have a calling and as much as I will reach out to any brother who has passed through the penal system, I will be foolish not to know that there are 2-sides to every coin. If we want to be a part of changes needed, we must first be honest about having to look at both sides of the coin.

  3. PrisonPath January 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Don’t get me wrong, I was only asking and sharing my concerns. I speak only for myself and I feel that communication begins with honest listening…I’m sure they are the untold stories that no one talks about, including the inmates…was just food for thought.
    By Carlos

  4. William January 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm #


    R.E.A.L. Communication take place when people take the Time and Energy To R.E.A.L.LY Talk With Each Other! So many times we just talk at and to each other!

    R. Relationships
    E. Encourage
    A. Authentic
    L. Loving

    When people are in R.E.A.L. Relationship with each other both sides of all the coins are seen by all!

    Two very famous brothers were having lunch John spilled some food on his shirt and Jim went to clean it up! John said leave it there it makes me Vulnerable! How Many Are Willing To Be R.E.A.L.LY Vulnerable, NOT MANY!

  5. PrisonPath January 6, 2014 at 3:47 am #

    And to me, R.E.A.L. cannot take place until we all sharpen our listening skills. It’s easy for us wanting to be heard and the best talking skill to me is that of first learning to listen. We are in this world to do more for the other than for our selves.
    By Carlos

  6. PrisonPath January 6, 2014 at 3:58 pm #


    How very True Regarding Listening Skills! But how many R.E.A.L.LY want to better their listening skills? So many including me have said and will say I Wish I Would Have Known!

    It might have been another brother, I’ve got a R.E.A.L.LY BAD MEMORY but I asked a Spanish brother In Jesus The Christ to be on team for the 1st Spanish Tries Dias Weekend in Chattanooga TN. Be it you or another Spanish brother they said no, and there are times when I have to say no even when I do not want to say no!

    But at such times I’m listening to the point where my heart mind and soul are asking God to help me find someone that can go in my place!

    Should we as Christians particularly 4th Day Christians not be all about Building Christian Community In Action? If we just Say No Are We R.E.A.L.LY About Building Christian Community In Action?
    By William

  7. PrisonPath January 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    William; that is a new way to spelling and looking at R.E.A.L.
    By Willie

  8. PrisonPath January 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    There is so much true in what you say Willie. So many would love to say YES to playing their part in a weekend encounter but unforunately for many, economically it’s not possible for them to reach into their pockets to cover the expenses, even when they make personal sacrificies. There has to be a way that we can assist our own brothers and sisters financially struggling that want to share their gifts with other but can’t do it unless they want to return home and face the reality that bills should have been paid.
    This is a reality that we have to look at and remember always that charity begins at home.
    Prison ministry is something that these times are crying for; we just need to find ways to reach out to those who can’t financially afford the expense.
    By Carlos

  9. PrisonPath January 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    ou can’t Judge a Book by its Cover


    I was doing a Online Prayer Vigil for a Tres Dias Weekend in Ukraine, printed it up and would bring it with me on a daily basis. On a Weekend in prison team meeting i asked a team member if he would be willing to take part in this online Prayer Vigil? He said yes of course and signed up!

    He then asked me Bill do you want to go to Ukraine? I said i can not afford to go! He said i did not ask you that! I asked you if you wanted to go? I said Yes i want to go!

    As Christain Community In Action he put the word out to brothers and sisters in Christ from Keryx, Walk To Emmaus and Cursillo asking if they as Christain Community In Action as a whole would pay My Way? Some had enough money to go themself but did not have the time! Others either had both they could not afford to go or did not have the time!

    Many shared bill you go we will pay Your Way as a Whole Community working together to make this Happen! Some only could give $1.00 dollar others gave a $100.00 dollars! I never asked anyone in any way to pay my way! A brother in Christ i asked to take part in the Online Prayer Vigil was moved to have these 3 Different Cursillo Method Ministries Come Together To Walk The Talk Of Christain Community In Action!

    We have to Stop Talking The Walk Of What Is Dialogued About Over A 72 Hour Cursillo Method Weekend And Start Walking The Talk! This is even more True About Many Of Our Churchs!

    A brother was to go to prison on a monday and The Sunday before he was Walking out the church with his wife and the Pastor said I will pray for you! He asked the pastor how do you know what needs to be prayed for regarding me when you have never talked with me!

    Im regularly committed with 5 different churchs and have always sought out to build a R.E.A.L. Relationship with the Pastors and Leadership at these Churchs! Two of these churchs have very little Interest in Building R.E.A.L. Relationships With Only The Right People at the church!

    My Pastor at the Church where im a member at was at another church with his ArtPrize exhibit. He was interacting with others and the senior pastor of that church came up to him and asked?

    How do you do what you do? My Pastor said what do you mean? He said i have been watching you! He said You Respect and Love Everyone Equally! This senior pastor said i can do this with those with the right chemistry! My Pastor said as the senior pastor here you need to be able to do just what you asked me how i do what i do? We need to have lunch Lets Talk!

    I know to many Not R.E.A.L. pastors that would never ask such a vulnerable question!!!

    Two very famious brothers were having lunch. John spilled some stuff on his shirt. Jim went to clean it up. John said leave it there is makes me vulnerable! How many understand or desire to have an understand that being vulnerable will allow them to learn in new ways that will Allow Them To R.E.A.L.LY Learn And Grow!

    Don Trump’s lawyer shared years ago
    Not Everything Is As It Appears and i add this is just as True With People! How R.E.A.L. Are We and Do We R.E.A.L.LY Want To Know How R.E.A.L. We Are?
    By William

  10. Carlos January 11, 2014 at 3:42 pm #


  11. Pastor Riaz Arif January 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Blessings from Pakistan

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