Part 1 of 5 "IT IS NOT OVER . . ." by Joel Alexander February 18, 1977 I was born to Greg and Kathy Alexander, but it wasn't long after that date when my mom sent my dad packing, with a divorce to follow, for good reason. Although I didn't have to live through the divorce, beings I was an infant at the time, I did live the life of a child tore between two families who disliked each other. This is something that consumed and shaped much of my life. All I ever wanted was to feel as though my dad loved and accepted me, but I never felt I achieved that goal despite always chasing his love and a father-son relationship with him. This difficulty in my life wasn't the whole story. I had a family who did love me whole heartedly - my mom, grandpa and grandma, aunts and uncles, and my older brother. I was blessed and loved, but I seemed to focus a lot on what I didn't have - a father who loved me. It wasn't that I didn't spend time with him, I just always felt like a stranger in his house, or at best a friend to his step-son. My step-brother was my father's real son, or so it seemed. My dad remarried when I was six or seven, and his new wife already had a son who was two or three. I guess you could say that I envied him. I spent many nights during my childhood crying, wondering why all of my friends, cousins, and step-brother had loving fathers in their homes, but I didn't. Nothing I did made my dad proud of me. I didn't dress like he'd hope, I didn't play sports like he'd wish, I didn't have an athletic build like I should, I listened to music he didn't like (country), I was into motorsports which he didn't like - I could never please him, and he let me know often. But, I still loved him and desired to be loved by him. Often I was the rope in between a tug-o-war game of two families who despised one another. This was my childhood. Looking back, I kind of wish that I could have just forgotten my dad's side of the family, and truly enjoyed and appreciated the wonderful life I had from my mom's side. I had a life that by all outside appearances should have never led me to life in prison, but inside I had torment. I had an emotional and mental war within. 1984 - Seven years old - I was exposed to pornography. 1986 - Nine years old - I was coerced to perform oral sex by a 14 year old neighbor boy. 1988 - Eleven years old - I was introduced to masturbation by an older cousin. 1992 - Fifteen years old - I woke to an older man, who was a coworker, performing oral sex on me. This late 30's man enticed me and some friends with alcohol, and once I passed out on his couch, he took advantage of me. 1993 By the age of 16 I was so lost and confused. I was already four years into experimenting sexually with male friends and cousins. It was when puberty hit that confusion exploded, and acting out sexually began to dominate my life, my thoughts, and my very being. I was so starved for male affection, and so confused from all that I'd been exposed to at such a young age. From the age of 12, love and sex were slowly becoming one and the same in my mind. My main attraction was towards males, but I also had experiences with females. How could this be? I was a Christian, born and raised in the Lutheran church. I knew early on what the Bible said about homosexuality, and so this created another battle, a battle engulfed in fear of going to hell. I felt so alone. I had this life that nobody knew about. I became good at hiding this from my family and friends. Besides growing up in the church, I also lived in a small, hick, farm town. My family also worked mostly in the various construction trades, and I grew up around the racetracks. None of these environments were conducive to being openly gay or bisexual, and so one did not dare let people find out. It was not okay in any of these settings to be gay or bisexual. So, although I cared about the females, I did date, these relationships were for the most part a coverup for my true feelings and attraction-Except for one. Born this way, or made this way via circumstances, it didn't matter, it was who I was. The need to live a double life only made my life worse. 1997 - I Was Arrested "Have you ever had heartache so deep, or hardship so difficult that it's almost impossible to stand? Like a giant wave crashing on the shore, some trials threaten to overwhelm us." "God promised to be with us and to use every valley - even those of our own making - for our benefit. - Romans 8:28" Charles Stanley, In Touch 9-19-2020, "The Believer's Valley Experiences" My double life had caught up with me. I'd crossed over into some very deplorable acts, acts which led me into a lifetime of being connected to the hip of our judicial system, and under the judgment of an often-unforgiving community. Did I deserve forgiveness? No. But, would forgiveness help contribute to a successful and crime free future moving forward? Yes. When one can't escape the dark shadow of their past, and are constantly living a life of condemnation, the feeling of suppression and depression are very difficult to separate yourself from. Depression just fuels the fire for further poor decision making, and additional hideous choices and actions. It is very difficult to escape those valleys, and climb to the hilltops. I, unlike many, had a lot of my family. I also had many old and new friends who gave me a chance, who extended to me their hand and their trust. Yet, much like in my childhood, I found it difficult to be grateful for all I had and instead focused much of my energy and attention on all the people I'd loved and lost because of my past choices and actions. I focused on where I could not go, what I could not have.
Part 2 of 5 "IT IS NOT OVER . . ." by Joel Alexander I ascended those hills and experienced God's glorious blessings, but I had a vision problem. I almost always looked to those valleys, I looked behind me, and I also took credit for all I'd accomplished. The problem . . . All I'd gained, what I'd accomplished, were blessings from God. When I more less turned my back on Him through all my misdirected vision, pride, sadness, pretend happiness, and ungodly behavior and living, all I had been blessed with was snatched away as fast as it had come. First, a relationship I had, with plans to marry. Then, the housing market crashed, depleting the value of my house making it impossible to sell for the amount I owed. Next, construction all but came to a halt due to the slouching economy, and with that my high paying job. I say all this, but in reality, the ending of the relationship was a blessing, and the other losses an opportunity to find myself and a chance to enjoy much in life. In other ways, God was blessing me. As doors closed, others opened. However, as history would have it, I again was stuck looking through a scope towards all I'd lost and was losing. These new losses compounded on top of past hurt and losses. Excuse my language but 'shit' piled up, and I never dealt with any of it. I never let anything go, all I did was worry about losing the next thing or person. To this day, abandonment and rejection are the two greatest fears I have - and depression, anxiety, loneliness, and a lack of hope, purpose, peace, and joy are what I often battle. With my vision towards the valleys and behind, rather than on the hill tops I was at times standing on, or at least very capable of climbing, I would traverse a path that once again landed me in the backseat of a cop car. This time bringing a mass amount of shame, disappointment, and embarrassment to everyone I knew, those who knew me, as well as to myself. April 2012 When I had been arrested back in 1997, I was certain that my life was over, but now it was most definitely over. This time my fate would be life in prison without the possibility of parole. Also, it seemed as though every friend and family member had turned their back on me. In reality, probably 99% had, but 1% stood by me through it all. My mom, my grandma, my aunt, and a handful of loving and supportive friends have been my lifeline, an example of Christ-like love to me. Of course, they were disappointed, angry, sad, embarrassed and humiliated, and faced with a sense of loss, however, that 1% has not wavered in their love for me. Since my arrest, the Lord has added to that 1%, bringing new people into my life who love me and stand by me. Many of those who support me also support those who I stand by in my mission to be a blessing to others, to give and no longer take. March 2013 As a person with a sex-related offense, I was terrified to be shipped to a prison known for violence and hatred, especially towards people like me. It was February when I arrived at the Clallam Bay Correctional Center. Shortly after arriving, the blessings came quickly, so did the shield of protection which the Lord promises throughout His Word . . . To Abram in Genesis 15:1 "Do not fear, Abram, I am your shield." To Isaac in Genesis 26:24 "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father. Do not fear for I am with you." David to God in Psalms 3:3 "But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who raises my head." And Psalms 28:7 "The Lord is my strength and my shield my heart trusted Him, and I was helped therefore my heart rejoices, and with my song I will thank Him." It was in March that I would experience the love of God stronger than ever before, when I was included in a four day event with a program called Kairos. This twice-yearly event normally had a waiting list, because the area only allowed for 30-35 inmates at a time. Yet somehow, I made the list, and I was a part of Kairos #15, a member of the table of Mark. I'd been at Clallam Bay for one month and I knew nobody. Four hours away from my home, and all I could focus on was this stamp of LWOP (Life Without Parole) on my life. But, on this Thursday we walked into this room to 40 plus men of God, all standing in lines to our left and our right. These men were awaiting our entrance so they could shake our hands and offer us a warm embrace. Just like that I knew God loved me, that although He didn't love my past, He still loved me. He loved on me four days straight through these 40 plus men. Some of these men retired, others were not. All had taken four days from their lives to spend with us. Some came from Canada, and the rest from all over Washington state. These men took time from their work and families to spend time with people believed to be the worst of the worst, at the most northwest point of the lower 48. These people ate with us, filled us with coffee, cocoa, cookies, and other goodies, but most importantly they filled us with love, with human touch, with singing and teaching. They helped us learn to forgive - not only others, but also ourselves. In these four days I'd gained a new family - 40 plus outside volunteers, and more than 30 incarcerated individuals. Just like that - A 70 plus member family. From there it only grew, friends of each inmate, and additional volunteers as the months and years passed. Kairos means "God's Time". How true was that for me? He knew exactly what I needed, and when I needed it. He knew I needed good people in my life. He knew I needed a circle of people for protection. He knew I couldn't be on a waiting list, that now was the time, it was Kairos, God's Time.
Part 3 of 5 "IT IS NOT OVER . . ." by Joel Alexander Of all the amazing men who gave of their time, and at times, money, (A Kairos event is costly) one man became my spiritual father. This man knew my story, yet he did not judge. He knew of the battle I'd had with my sexuality much of my life, yet he did not turn his back. He took the time to meet with me one-on-one. He always came to teach of God's love and forgiveness. He made sure we knew that God, and himself (Terry Olson), loved us. Terry would spend the entire week prepping for his week's message, a message created from love, prayer, and a lifetime of experience. He'd also type out an outline, and print it for us so we could review the message he'd taught at a later time. He'd also print beautiful pictures for us that also emblazoned a positive message or scripture, something we could hang on our wall, or send home to a loved one. This man gave and gave until he had no more to give, and then he'd give more. Into his 70's, he'd not always lived a life pleasing to God, and he made sure we knew that. He wanted us to know that we are not alone in our sinful past, and all its' baggage. This most humble man I've ever known, before and since, is blessed with a beautifully understanding and selfless wife, he is biblically educated and grounded, a serial entrepreneur, a fisherman, a fisher of men, Pastor, CEO, consultant, and despite all of this, he still had and has time for us incarcerated men. Not one or even ten, but hundreds of men he has encountered in his many years doing this. In Terry's life he's also faced great trial and tribulation - including now - a battle with lymphoma. But, stay tuned, because this is just another testimony in the making. I suppose a potential downfall of being a servant of God is that you might be used in unpleasant ways, like Job, in order to be an encouragement to others, a testimony to others, and part of God's plan and story to rescue the lost and dying - as Terry and others have been for me. December 2014 After spending nearly three years solely focused on myself - some mourning all the loss, some focused on and working on my many issues - I was called to help others, and I very reluctantly followed the calling. I'd been reminded by Terry, the Kairos family, and the family and friends who stuck by me, just how much love I still had. I was still so very blessed, but so many people around me had nothing, and nobody. So, in January 2015, with the help of some friends and my mom, we launched Cornerstone Ministry Group (go2cm.org). The ministry was developed to help the incarcerated who have little to no outside help, to have a successful transition to the community. Also, to help the families of the incarcerated meet their most basic needs. This, fruit from the love shown to me - the love of God, of my family, and my friends. Love and blessings are not given to be kept to yourself, but to be shared with others, paid forward. 2015 - 2016 Considering my bleak outlook of life in prison, I was doing rather well. I had settled in, made some good solid friends, and had a well-rounded schedule which included ample time in the chapel, and involvement in a number of programs from Kairos, to Bible study, church, participation in the chapel choir and worship team, Celebrate Recovery, a program I'd co-created to help people struggling with depression and a lack of purpose or hope, among others. Outside of my chapel activities, I took a two-year course on Business Management. I also got involved in a program started by the Black Prisoner's Caucus. The program, (T.E.A.C.H. - Taking Education and Changing History) offers a pathway to earn your Associates Degree. I took over the effort to launch an institutional newsletter for the TEACH program, a publication which allowed me to cover all the various programs and classes offered throughout the prison. While at Clallam Bay I also worked three different jobs, the final one where I wanted to be all along, working as a Teacher's Assistant in the Business class, and the GED class. With this addition to my schedule I spent around six hours per week day on the educational floor, and another two, seven days per week, in the chapel area. I can honestly say that life was good. I'd built a community within the prison, one I could enjoy, educate myself in, and give back to. I also had a good working relationship with staff which allowed me to help create and be involved in programs meant to help the greater community. I was far from home, which had its good and bad parts. Good because it was out of sight - out of mind. It was almost as though I wasn't in prison. Bad because I didn't get that many visits, at least not what I'd get where I closer to home. But, when you receive LWOP, you must spend your first four years in a closed custody prison. Closed custody is the highest level of security aside from Segregation (IMU), also known as "the hole". The choices were Clallam Bay or Walla Walla. Clallam Bay was the closest to home (four hours), and the least violent of the two. The end of my stay at Clallam Bay was rough. It began going downhill in December of 2016 when I reported an officer for harassing me, and his inappropriate behavior. He'd spent three years harassing me because of my sexuality and charges, at times he even discussed both with other inmates. When I reported him, retaliation came hard and often. I was moved from an incentive unit to the worst unit in the institution. But I pushed through it because I had too much positive going on for me to lose my way. When I hit my four-year mark, I asked to be transferred to the Monroe Correctional Complex, the prison which is within minutes of all my family and friends. I didn't really want to leave the life I'd built and been blessed with, but I wanted to move for my family and friends so they wouldn't have to commute so far.
"IT IS NOT OVER . . ." by Joel Alexander I was denied transfer and instead moved out to the medium custody building at Clallam Bay. I was actually happy about this, aside from staff placing me in the worst of the four pods, where I'd specifically asked to not be placed. The pod I went to had the highest gang politics of any place in the entire prison. Immediately I became a mark to those who didn't know me, the racist white people who are by far the worst "humans" I've ever experienced. I was quickly moved to a better pod with a friend from church. This was probably the best place a person could be if they have to do time. But the damage was done. The ignorant white folks had it out for me. In their delusional thinking they thought I'd told on them for something, as if I gave them such time or attention. They also were apparently the last people in the prison to find out why I was in prison. This is a display of their intelligence level, or lack thereof. Everyone knew why I was there, because it was blasted all over the television. Also, if people asked, I told them. February 2017 While at Terry's church service, I was victim to an attempted assault. A 19 year old newby, puppet - or missile - for the so called "white boys" tried to get me. But you can't mess with God in His house. What I believe to be by divine intervention, I saw this coming. He was out of eye sight, yet I saw, felt, or was somehow made aware that he was coming. Time slowed. . . With nowhere to escape, I was able to grab my chair with my left hand, as I slowly came to me feet, and throw it out from behind me. At the same time, I grabbed this kid by the chest of his shirt with my right hand. Just as his fist grazed my cheek bone, I threw him away from me. I stumbled backwards, about six feet, and then regained my bearings. As I looked around for this kid, I realized he was about 15 or 20 feet away from me. I couldn't figure out how he'd gotten so far away? Had I thrown him that far? Right then this 80-year-old man, a chapel sponsor, stepped in front of me to impede the advancement of the kid. Right away, the officers were there, and took him away. They also took me, both of us off to the hole. I sat in IMU for 59 days before being shipped out to the place I am today, Monroe Correctional Complex, the place I'd been trying to go, so I could get closer to my family. I had never been to an IMU, aside for once in 2003, and then only for a day. It was horrible. Each passing day felt as though a bit more of my life was being taken from me by way of the mouth. It was as though I had a vacuum attached to my lips - my soul being extracted. What made it worse was that I was not in trouble, they just wouldn't allow me to return to the normal population there, for my own safety. Yet, I was still being treated as though I was in trouble. 59 long days after the incident, I was on a bus. Behind me were all the friends I'd made, all the Kairos people, all the other chapel volunteers, and the chance to complete my Associates, and the advanced portion of the Business course. Also, my job helping people in the school, and the newsletter I'd created and so enjoyed. I'd also lost my sense of security, the safety I felt I had. My world had been rocked, the carpet pulled out from beneath me. I had left much, and lost much. I fell into severe depression, I felt sad, empty, and was hurting. Ahead of me was the unknown, yet the chance to be at a place closer to home. As great as that was and is, I am also now in my backyard. I feel so close to home, yet so far away. Everything I've loved and known is literally an arm's length away, but just far enough that I can't touch it. Coming here made it feel like I was just starting my life sentence, a life sentence that was much more real now. This coupled with my sense of security being robbed, I now was battling anxiety and depression at levels I'd never experienced. To make matters worse, this place is setup for people with short sentences, which means two things. The turnover of people is massive - people you get close to are constantly leaving, meaning repeated loss. Also, all jobs, schooling, and other programs give priority to people with short sentences. So, I arrived here, and there was nothing to do. Thankfully they have since slowly added more programs and avenues of education. Over the three plus years I have been here, my schedule has slowly filled up with various programs. The most impactful, a new program called Defy Ventures. It was this program that gave me new reason to more than exist. Many times, in my life I have hoped to go to sleep at night, and not wake up. However, I had never felt this way more than I did when I got to this prison. I thank God for Defy Ventures and all of its sponsors and volunteers. Also, for all the other programs and their people: Bridges to Life, Non-Violent Communication, Toastmasters, Yoga Behind Bars, some decent chapel programs, and a number of other programs and classes. There is much to be thankful for, even with the trauma, the loss, and the guilt I carry for all the people I have hurt in my lifetime. Although I've grown and changed in many ways, there is always work to be done. January 2020 In five years, Cornerstone Ministry has helped more than 120 individuals and/or families. This has not been without its difficulties and challenges though. It is always a challenge to raise money meant to help the incarcerated, or even the families of those incarcerated. Many would rather lock people up and throw away the key. People are quick to judge rather than take the time to get to know the people behind these bars. . . damaged people, people who are lost and hurting, people who have often not been given the opportunity in life to succeed, people who have not experienced Christ-like love.
"IT IS NOT OVER . . ."
by Joel Alexander
Finding people to volunteer their time is also a challenge, sometimes for the same reason, but mostly because people are too busy. I myself was guilty of this, only what I was busy with was not what I'd been called to do. I was busy doing a bunch of unimportant 'stuff'. Sadly, the church has been the most difficult place to find help of any kind.
Approximately one year after I arrived here, I again went to the hole. This time, for investigation of illegally running a business from prison. This time I sat in there for 49 days, and would have sat there longer had my mom not called headquarters. I was again sitting in the hole for nothing I had done wrong. First of all, I don't run the 'business'. Second, there is no policy against it, if I had been running it. Some people in the prison system are just so against helping people, that they couldn't stand that me, my family, and my friends, are helping people in prison, or their families. The prisons are called "Reformatories", or "Correctional Centers", but in reality, they are still far from fulfilling those titles. It is sad, but things are starting to change, and that is a good thing.
Moving forward we are ready to help the next 120, this is just the beginning. I have nothing but time. We