By Reinaldo Dennes
The first time I met a skinhead was about eight years ago. Tattoos decorated his body. AK-47s. Skulls. Swastikas, and this is just on his bald head. The rest of his body was graffiti, bad trips, demons of hell, even of his Fuhrer Hitler. "What's your name?" I asked him.
Why I was drawn to him was clear to my soul and heart, but my mind rejected all he stood tor. The state of Texas, in all its wisdom, has death row inmates change cells every six months. Consequently I was only able to talk with Cujo a few times before we changed cells. I would talk and show my artwork as a way to get closer to a mad dog.
During his short time on death row Cujo had created a name for himself; he was greatly feared as a man who would stab you in a heartbeat. He hated everyone who did not look like him. And he did not discriminate between officers and inmates, mail room or Commissary workers. All would bleed. So most stayed away from him, but I sought out his company and asked if l could go outside on the recreation yards at the same time he did. Death row inmates in Texas must recreate alone, but two recreation cages are side-by-side so we can talk to the person in the neighboring cage. This is the only time death row men can talk directly to each other. All other talking is through cell walls. Religion and spiritual references were taboo topics for Cujo. He would mock and spit on Christians or Jews alike. black or white. His cup was filled with bitter hate. Cujo continued in his rage, cutting a few and stabbing others, which always resulted in a trip to the hole. So on and off, Cujo was sent to the lowest level. F-Pod, where he was deprived of all privileges. To others a dungeon, but maybe to him it was home.
Cujo broke all kinds of records for discipline -- TDCJ had to re-write the books on him. The rules state that after three months of good behavior on F-Pod, inmates are returned to the normal level. Who knows how Cujo managed to behave for three months to make his way back to level l. Maybe the desire to enjoy a breath of fresh air or a trip to commissary or a visit or two. Soon Cujo would cut again and return to the isolation where he was further tormented, deprived of all human necessities: clothes, heat, property, hygiene. It became so bad that it was best if he was kept away from everyone else so one whole pod was emptied out and devoted to the mad dog. For many months he was 'shook down` every hour on the hour. His body searched as well as his cell, 24 hours a day. When he started to sleep, time for shakedown. This went on for 30 days. Then it was reduced to every four hours. For 30 more days. Then every six hours. Then every l2. Then once a day. While all this is happening his meals consisted of compressed food loaf. With who knows what added surprise was included. For six months and then… the beat goes on. Recreation allowed only one hour a day outside. by himself. For no one liked him. Best to stay away from mad dogs.
But the light soon began to penetrate his darkness and Cujo started to reflect on his life. Finally, his soul asked if there is a God and if there is, why let his life end up this way. He remembered when he was around six years old he asked his atheist father about God and was punished for asking. He asked God to reveal him the real truth. This prepared his mind to receive a little more. God answered this lost but greatly beloved son.
Productivity on death row? These past 21 years have been for me very productive, slowly progressing inward on my spiritual journey to the Father. Chris is covered with tattoos and I'm clean skinned- his hate is my love, and his war is my peace. We are opposite sides of the same coin, both sons of God. I became aware that all violence and hate are done in total ignorance of the divine spirit within us all. To be in the will of God is to be in harmony with all, in peace and love.
I have no major cases, nor have I been in trouble of any kind here. Bless the ways of God. Every six months we are moved to a different cell pod. A, B. C. D or F, and every three months a major lockdown is bestowed upon us and everyone is thoroughly searched, cell included. The captain comes to me holding a piece of rusted metal and says. "Dennes, what is this?"
"I don't know what that is," I say.
Hidden for who knows how many years in my cell, it has the potential of being sharpened into a weapon. "Regardless of your clean record, if it's in your cell it's yours." Go to jail. Don‘t collect any property. Straight to the dungeon. First time for me, and if I have to go again I will. For I know there was another reason I was sent there. I was thinking about Mad Dog.
I went with a smile. I arrived on F pod, Level III, a place where the air seems thicker and smells of depression and evil. I walked into 77 cell and my neighbor in 76 was Cuio. We talked every day through the back wall and went outside an hour a day together. Slowly. Cujo opened up and talked about his life. Mostly he talked about his childhood, how at age 10 he committed his first violent act. A kid had stolen his bicycle. From then he grew both in rage and violence. Every time something was done to him he paid it back twice and then some. Eventually he was sent to juvenile detention where the violence against him continued and he learned how to protect himself from inmates and guards. Turned loose in the world he fell further down the slippery path of evil and hate.
An honor to know a prisoner? I was privileged to know Chris's life story so I can reveal the essence of his conversion experience. Chris was reborn to know the will and ways of God, once he repented with all his heart and recognized how lost he was in the darkness. God saw that small but bright light in his soul, and forgave Chris. He gave him an incredible amount of love to fill the great void in his heart. For whom much is forgiven much love is felt. Chris started to love everyone and would give anything he had to any and all. But I have gotten a little ahead of myself. On the rec yard one day, Chris asked me about God. I shared with him my experience with the Urantia Book. Chris had read The Bible and didn‘t believe in a god of war, one who condemned him to hell. I explained that this book would answer all his questions and millions of others he will ask.
One day while Cujo sat in the hole wearing only a paper gown, nothing to write with, nothing to read, no mattress, no blanket, or anything at all, a guard tossed him a book that had been left in another cell. Desperate for something to do, for anything to keep from going crazy, Cujo began reading this book.
Can death row convert to life row? The change that had already started grew even more, securing his soul, anchoring him to the Father forever. He became a mighty messenger and shared his testimony with everyone. At last count he had sent 24 books to those he talked to, whether here or out around the world. After he read the Urantia Book his life was never the same. He forever knew that he was a son of God. Now the test of his faith began, just because he was born again doesn't mean all those he hurt would forget and forgive him. He had hurt everyone from guards to inmates to mail room workers to commissary workers. Maybe a few unknown others. It was their turn to pay back.
The officers would deny him recreation, meals, showers, mail. The guards ignored him and when he asked where his food tray was or if he could shower they would say, "You verbally refused (recreation, showers. food) He would say. "'That‘s OK." The mailroom many times lost his mail. That's OK." Commissary. After many years of not being able to go, the first few times he filled out his list they claimed, "We didn't receive it, sorry." "That‘s OK." After a while he would make another list and if he paid for sneakers they would give him shower slides. If he requested a radio they gave him a fan. He never again cursed anyone, all he would say is, "It‘s OK." Finally everyone got tired of prodding him and getting no results so eventually they left him in peace. After a few years of testing he passed all tests and became an honorable inmate with almost all liberties restored.
Love and light from a 6 x 9 prison cell? People all over the world were drawn to Chris`s
light. Each asked about his conversion and received or purchased a copy of this life changing book. Chris wanted to reach his lost son and the last time I talked with my brother he was writing a 50 page letter to his son. But he understood that when someone is not ready to listen he will never hear. Chris believed that we all will be given a chance to fully believe or reject even after death. For who really can be destroyed for not understanding in this world.
Peace on death`s row? Christopher Chubasco Wilkins #999533 was executed by the state of Texas on January 11. 2017. Chris already has risen in the next world and will guide me into a higher awareness, as I guided him in this world. Truly he is a mighty messenger and continues to be one.
“My thoughts are my only demons; my demons are only my thoughts.” CCW
|Reinaldo Dennes 999248|
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351