Bob – Most people who read my blog don’t know you. Would you tell my readers something about your life?
Zach – First of all, I want to thank you for this interview. I also want to thank Matt for introducing us.
I was raised in a small town in southern Missouri on the Arkansas state line. It was dirt roads, tin roof houses, hills, woods and rivers. I was born into a large family of simple folk who worked hard because they had to; drank hard to escape their harsh reality; and fought hard because they liked to.
At a very young age, I began to resent the classes of society who did not share in the cycle of poverty and struggle that I felt my family was trapped in due to the rung on society’s ladder we inhabited.
I remember on several occasions my uncles holding out their hands so we could see the obvious missing fingers. Drunk with misery they would tick off each missing finger and what the money they received from the sawmill went to pay for. I remember Uncle Mike saying, “This one paid for the Christmas of ’95,” as he showed us the newest stub where his ring finger should have been. It hurt me!
My resentment was also fed by my experiences with Division of Family Services and their foster homes. By 14 my rebellious behavior landed me in juvenile for 15 months. Defining what I was opposed to was a driving force in my life. The power I pulled from these feelings compelled me to rebel against EVERY THING! I knew that there had to be a better way, not only for me but also for my loved ones.
Bob – How long have you been incarcerated and what has been your experience?
Zach – On May 11, 1997, I tied up the night shift staff at a juvenile facility and took twenty dollars out of his wallet. I escaped by stealing the keys from the transportation van. After one hour and a high speed chase, I was back in custody and charged with robbery, kidnapping and tampering with a motor vehicle. I was 15 years old by this time and had already been in juvenile for 15 months, so the Division of Youth Services put me in for certification.
In the mid ’90s a juvenile could be certified as an adult and go to prison. I went through this process and by December 1997 I was in the county jail waiting to go to prison on a new 10 year sentence for robbery. I served seven years flat and six of it behind the Old Walls in Jefferson City, where I first met Matt.
Prison is a very inhumane place. It breeds and encourages the inhumane while discouraging the humane. Violence and viciousness are praised while courteous and pleasant behaviors are viewed as odd and weak. It is a bite or be bitten world.
I have spent over half of my life inside these walls and wires, and in my youth climbed to the top of these snake pits with violent aggression. It has taken me twenty hard years to realize the meaningless and wasteful nature of it all. As a grandfather, a father, a brother, a son and a friend to many, I look forward to freedom again one day.
Bob – You and I became acquainted through a friend of mine, who was also incarcerated with you. What tis the value of having friends like Matt?
Zach – It is a breath of fresh air to encounter a person like Matt in these places. Over the past few decades I have had the pleasure of meeting a couple of sincere souls that I cherish. The value of a “friendship” is beyond the expression of my current vocabulary.
I can say that as a seeker of a better way I have found that I gravitate towards people who are positive and productive, as opposed to the negative and destructive. These cages are over-flowing with negative and destructive people. We are bombarded and exposed to the same destructive concepts while in these cages.
Rarely do you find a shining star that brings light into this dark sea of madness. The friendship in and of itself is valuable, but it also provides a fertile ground for personal growth that would never have developed without the friendship. Like they say, “When you hand around the dumpsters, you end up smelling like the trash.”
The same applies when you are exposed to positive people in that realm. If I were exposed to Wall Street stockbrokers all of my life, a large chance exists that I would have become a stockbroker.
Bob – You hopefully will be released from prison in the near future. What do you plan to do with your life upon release?
Zach – Upon release I plan to locate in the Springfield area, in order to be close to my parents. Over the last twenty years, I have wholeheartedly dedicated so much of myself to helping the young guys to come to prison. At the same time, I have neglected my duties to my family by being incarcerated.
I have a granddaughter who will be one in February and a twenty-two year daughter. I’ve never seen my granddaughter and haven’t seen my daughter since she was two years old. I plan to establish a healthy relationship with the family I have long neglected.
I plan to obtain employment as an electrician. I hope to be approved to participate in the Electrician Vocational training program offered by the Missouri Department of Corrections before being released.
I am fully dedicated to an organization to which I belong. We provide operational greenhouses and gardens. I’d like to expand these to other community projects.
I am working on two books that I want to have published. “A Nation Enslaved” is the title of a book that considers the opiate crisis we are facing as a nation. I can use my personal story to expose the devastating effects of this addiction.
After I was released from prison the last time, I built the life I had always wanted. It included a nice house, a loving wife, three step-sons, a paying job as a crane operator. After being introduced to pain pills and heroin, my life came to a screeching halt with overdoses, death, robberies and finally prison. I have been clean and sober for over a year. I participate in Narcotics Anonymous faithfully and plan to continue this habit once released.
Bob – How would you describe your spirituality?
Zach – My spirituality is unorthodox for sure. I ascribe to none of the organized doctrines of faith I that I’ve had the opportunity to study. I believe in an All Father who animated all life. I have also been known to call out to my grandparents in prayer, because I believe they have my best interests at heart.
I am still a student in the area of spirituality. I know that I am a seeker of a better way and do my best to support the righteous in any situation.
I have maintained a relationship with the All Father throughout the years, yet it has been an intimately personal one. The communication between God and me has remained this personal even now, because for the most part I have spent the majority of my life around those whom I have not cared to share this part of my life with. This might be selfish or wrong, but it is true.
Prayers for Friday, January 12, 2018
Dear God, we pray for all incarcerated persons today.