Jeffery Hofstedter was our prime example of schizophrenia augmented by religiosity. White, late thirties, anorexically thin, he balanced a supersize pair of bifocal chominators to laboriously read his Bible aloud, one disconnected word at a time. He had been booted out of pre-GED class enough times that they didn’t want him back. His last expulsion came after he accused half the class of demonic possession, stood at the door with hands raised and eyes closed, chanting “Blood of Jesus” over and over until COs forcibly removed him. He landed in G-cellhouse often, one time telling me (accurately), “The Ten Commandments don’t say nothing about not busting someone in the mouth.” Nobody could drift into a conversation with him without the flow spilling into his favorite oxbow – the certainty that “God knows what’s in my heart and he’s gonna see to it that I’m released, sooner than anyone thinks.” He had over 40 years left to do.
On one seg visit, I noticed he was particularly upset about something.
“If I ever meet Jesus, I’m gonna fucking kill him. Making me suffer like this!”
Like many of the mentally ill, his family had all but abandoned him. He used to get a money order from a relative at Christmas, but since the IDOC went exclusively to a JPay electronic funds transfer system, he got nothing. “They can’t figure out how it works, or they don’t have a credit card.” He didn’t miss a meal – one of the few always out the door for breakfast at the insanely early 3 a.m. hour, a time selected to discourage eating and save Aramark money. He ate everything put before him, but didn’t gain weight. No prisoner can gain weight without help from the outside. Or a kitchen job.
Friction, for Jeffery, came from clashing his faith and ideology with the heretics around him. Muslims were his most hated group – “They worship a false prophet. They worship a rock. They’re demons, and don’t realize it!” Mormons were next – “made-up scripture” – followed by Catholics, Baptists and any other denomination raising a point of doctrine with which he disagreed. His arguments wreaked of Bronze Age deity rivalry, Yahweh versus Baal, my god versus your god. He charged into god battles, covered with evangelical word vomit. He ended up with his own personal church, a sect of one.
“What it boils down to is this,” Jeffery explained. “God knows everything. He knows the future and He knows the past. He knows what you’ll do before you do it. Anything that is going to happen is going to happen because it’s God’s will; and anything that has happened has happened because it was God’s will. God’s in charge of everything.”
I gave him a questioning look, eyebrow raised.
“Except. . . evil. God doesn’t have anything to do with evil. He can’t even look at it.”
“So, the two murders you committed, were those God’s will, or did He not know those would happen, or what?”
He tossed his head back to examine the ceiling while his hands caressed an invisible sphere, like he was miming a clairvoyant. “God knew… I would do it… but He didn’t want me to do it… and He didn’t see it… so He didn’t will it to happen. I free-willed it. But Jesus forgave me for that. You see? It’s all God’s plan. And I don’t believe that New Testament verse that says no murderer has everlasting life in him. They messed up that translation, ya know? But what I’m learning from prison is patience. Don’t you think you learn patience here?”
“I’m learning it right now.”
“Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about. Hey, what’s your favorite Bible verse?”
“They shall dig through the wall and carry out thereby,” I said. “Ezekiel 12:12. It’s about an escape.”
“Mine’s Joel 1:5. Wake up ye drunkards and weep! I say it to these winos here all the time.”
Another day, Jeffery was in an escalating, contentious argument about dinosaurs. His adversary, also narrowly interested in Christianity, insisted dinosaurs were mentioned in Genesis, part of the Creation story. “The creatures described, those are dinosaurs. The Bible doesn’t say dinosaurs, but that’s what they are.”
“I read that dinosaur bones were put there by Satan,” Jeffery countered, “to confuse the unbelievers.”
Wow, I thought, he had read something from the 19th century.
“No, man,” his opponent proclaimed. “They found dinosaur bones and human bones together. Them people that dig stuff up, they proved it. Dinosaurs and people lived at the same time.” He fished through his clutter and produced a pamphlet with a crudely drawn tyrannosaurus on the cover.
The pamphlet did the trick, quieting Jeffery, sending him trotting off to lip-read the dinosaur theory. He was hung up on dinosaurs for weeks, until one day he was gone. I woke up to see COs packing his trash into clear plastic bags. Out of the blue, he had told a rookie female CO at breakfast he could see Satan in her blue eyes, and that she could repent, or die. He stood tall in front of her, staring expectantly into her face, waiting for her to choose door number one or door number two. She chose door number three, keying her radio, and Jeffery was escorted back into the anti-ark. There, the demons were real.
Excerpt from Chapter 10, pages 230-232, of Fifty Million Years in Prison, by Ivan Denison. Ivan Denison is the pen name of Indiana prisoner Ty Evans, #158293. His latest hook. FIFTY MILLION YEARS IN PRISON, was published in April 2017. The author is giving permission to PrisonWriters.com to reprint and publish this excerpt.
Ty Evans in serving a 71-year sentence in Indiana, 40-years for Evans’s attempted murder conviction, enhanced by a 30-year sentence for an habitual offender finding and a one-year sentence for resisting law enforcement conviction, to be served consecutively, for an aggregate sentence of seventy-one years.
Ty Evans #158293
1 Park Row
Michigan City, IN 46360