Have you ever been screaming inside with a story that you just had to get out? I feel like I will burst if I don’t tell you about the time I forgot I was locked up in prison. Kind of like when you were in high school and you finally got to kiss the hot girl or boy you’d been dreaming about. You just had to tell your best friend. That’s how I feel about this.
The Jester 3 Unit has really been shaking things up and turning lives around, thanks to Warden Hudspeth. Warden Hudspeth heard about a “lock-in” (not a lock-down) that the neighboring Wynne Unit had and the positive effects it had for the unit. This motivated Warden Hudspeth to start facilitating a Transformation class. Within the first few meetings of this class, Warden Hudspeth was himself transformed. I heard about this and decided that if it can change the warden, and the way he sees inmates, I had to check it out. I asked the warden how I could sign up. He instead invited me to the “lock-in” he had planned for that weekend. I was a little nervous. Lock-in sounds a lot like lock-up.
Friday, the 17th of October  came and I packed up my mattress and toiletries to go to the chapel for the weekend. We stayed in the chapel from noon Friday until noon Sunday, except for the times we left for chow and showers. This sounded like the most abstract thing I had ever heard of doing in prison. I decided to go just to change my routine a little bit and to take a vacation from the cell life.
I started the weekend sitting in the back with my arms crossed, wondering if I messed up going out there. The first day, I saw inmates dancing and singing like they were in a club somewhere. I thought they were crazy. There were close to 120 inmates and about 12 volunteers, including Warden Hudspeth and Warden Pittman.
That night was my first taste of freedom. We pulled out our mattresses and set them up to sleep. I started to feel like I wasn’t just another inmate in prison. I got to decide where I was going to sleep and who I was going to sleep next to. I know this doesn’t sound like much while you sit there reading this, but it is the little things that make one feel free, like going to the store or the park when you want.
The next day started off like the first: most of us singing and praising. This was the day that changed my life forever. I started off in the back again, but the volunteers had a way of reaching me. Me, a murderer!
I ended up in the front row singing and dancing, even though I am horrible at it, with all my heart and soul. I looked around at one point, and realized I forgot I was in prison, and all the mentalities that go along with being in prison. I also noticed everyone was overjoyed. This is something I have never seen in my life.
I realized I was experiencing something new, and I wanted more of it. That is when I started to feel the fire. Not the fire from the small bonfire we had going, but a fire deep within myself. It was a physical burning inside. Inmates were crying and hugging each other, and to see these men crying is something that is so touching in a way that was new to me. Wow! Men supporting each other emotionally, no matter who they were and despite past differences and different races. I was being transformed inside. I liked being a part of this. I started to really feel free inside, as if the chains of prison and its mentalities were being broken.
Most of the men that participated in the “lock-in” were given a chance to see the softer side of one another. This is something most male prisoners do not let anyone, let alone other prisoners, see. It is something most men feel is not a safe thing to do, ever, especially in prison. But the way Warden Hudspeth facilitated this, we almost didn’t have a choice. We have hearts we can only harden so much. This let us open our hearts and feel the love, in a safe environment.
The warden is really starting to let the system work to build a better society in here. This is teaching us a better way to live once we are returned to our lives outside these walls.
I can’t put into words how this has changed our lives and hearts, but it is something I needed. I am no longer trapped in my old patterns and prison mentalities. I was once told “change seldom comes without having a significant emotional event.” My life is forever changed.
Lucas Morgan is serving 25 years in Texas for killing his wife when he was 23 years old.
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