The following is authored by Mr. Louis Templeman, a good friend and former inmate at Baker C. I. Used with permission from mr. Templeman.
I HAVE A FACE by Louis Templeman
Standing on a concrete pad where a large diesel tank had been removed, I staredout through the 12' security fence, topped with razor wire. I saw the parade of men in blue going to lunch. It was very cold, windy, at most 45 degrees. It was so cold in the dorms that morning that one of our guards did the 7:00 a.m. count wearing gloves, insulated jacket, ear muffs and a hat. The living, moving swatch of blue shivered under cloth caps (if they were lucky) and cotton jackets. A fortunate few had long johns. One man stood out. Octavio. I felt proud I finally remembered his name. He speaks almost no English. He is always enthusiastic in his greeting to me. Of the fifty or so men who flow by he is the only one I think I know. The way he walks. His posture. His face causes him to stand out against the river of men draped in state issue blue.
All prisoners dress alike. We live under strict dress codes. It is an attempt by the Florida Department of Corrections to separate us from our identities. This discourages staff from seeing us as individuals. Separating us from our individuality facilitates the on-going negativism, condescension, cursing and regular issuance of suffering from F. D. C. staff.
In some camps this allotment of trauma and fear comes from other state employees such as medical personnel clerks, classification and work supervisors. When this culture of fear is strong in correctional officers the non-security employees often buy into it and look for opportunity to taunt and torment the inmates.
Judges hand down our sentences. F. D. C. staff, primarily correctional officers, put the sting to it. The state employees who embrace this culture of hate do not appreciate the depth of suffering endured in the inmates' loss of family and friends, children becoming fatherless, wives falling into poverty and promiscuity, removal from satisfying work and a pressing into an absurd counter-culture that forces an institutionalization that robs a man of his maturity, self-worth, and works to moldhim into a childlike dependence on the state.
I must resist with much effort the twisting of my personality and character this system imposes on the human soul. I must maintain my individuality, my personality, my character. This takes concerted effort, a perpetual pushing against the tide.The foundation of my struggle is prayer. I must maintain the divine conversation. My habit is to use count times where there is some period of enforced quiet, usually 15 to 30 minutes four times a day during waking hours. A prisoner must search diligently for opportunities for solitude and meditation or they will be wasted.
As I continued to watch the crowd in blue move by I was grabbing a few minutesfor prayer. Then like an illumination, this thought came to me, "I have a face! Octavio has a face!" I see inmates flowing by. I do not know most of them. To me they have no faces, no names, no identities. But Octavio does. He yells out, "Louis!" He points to the sky to indicate our mutual faith in God. He smiles, lifts two fists in the air as a gesture of triumph. I return in kind. To Octavio I have a face. When correctional officers come to know inmates there is always a possibility that a type of friendship will occur , usually a twisted kind that is formed behind a power imbalance. When this happens the staff initiated imposition of suffering usually lessens. Through the fog of this twisted culture molded by the Florida Judicial System and the F. D. C., some officers actually begin to see some inmates as human beings.
To me, it is one of the odd and counter-intuitive proofs of a loving and caring God. As Octavio walked off I began to consider that God knows my face. I do not disappear in a crowd. He treats me with dignity. I thought of the angel encountering Gideon. He did not see a faceless Israelite oppressed by fear of his enemies. He knew his name. He called him a man of valor, a champion.
Likewise, the angel said to the mother of the Lord, "Hail, favored one, full of grace." He called her by her name and remarked on one of her character traits.The angel saw their faces and was aware of their personalities. God is not on staff at the F. D. C. He sees my face. If I continue the divine conversation perhaps I will also maintain my face and resist being pressed into the mold of this dysfunctional sub-culture that is tax payer funded and geared towards making bad people worse.
By God's grace, the intentions and good will of my Savior and rigid devoted observance of the divine conversation I will maintain my face. Perhaps, my individuality and dignity will remain intact. Prison cannot keep me from holiness. A judicious word on holiness is, "Holiness increases as you become exactly what God wants you to be." That works for me. I must withstand and maintain my individuality. The face that God gives me.
Louis Templeman was incarcerated for a number of years in Florida and was released within the last year. He is currently seeking work.