Prison is a microcosm of society. The incarcerated represent wide-ranging lifestyles, cultures, races, religions and countries ‒ and none of them want to be there. Most fall into one of five general categories.
The first two are the Criminals and the Con Artists. Some of these can hurt you. While people can change as God’s grace forgives and Holy Spirit works, many criminals and con artists were, are, and will remain so ‒ kept inside or released outside. Criminals and con artists should be behind bars ‒ because they’ve either hurt somebody or because they are out to take advantage of anyone and everyone who crosses their path, in any way possible. While many of these – whom I call sociopaths – may actually be innocent of the specific crime for which they’re doing the time, they are no doubt guilty of some other, maybe even more serious offenses, known or not to the authorities.
The third category might be called the “whack-a-doos.” The majority of them are whacked-out conspiracy theorists who ‘wear tin foil hats’ and swear space-aliens or the government are out to steal their secrets and kill them. Clearly, mentally disabled, disturbed, perhaps having taken too much meth, crystal, oxycodone, … or whatever ‒ though, sadly, some were born this way. They deserve understanding and grace; but, also a wide berth, because they also can hurt you. For your own safety, in or out of prison, you have to discern the whack-a-doos from the others.
Then, some are what I call the deniers. These are the self-deceived … the self-proclaimed “innocent victims” of someone else, circumstances imposed by others, or both. They refuse to look at their own role in how they landed in prison. Often, long, complex, and anguishing, their stories take no responsibility for their actions or profoundly minimize their participation, their affiliations, their omissions, or their lifestyle. There is no genuine, honest, or visible accountability on their part. They just don’t get it and are doomed to failure and return to prison if and when they are ever released. I’ve learned to give them a wide berth, too.
And fifth, there are those who are actually innocent. They fall into two sub-categories:
- those who made some bad choices; but, had no intent to do anything wrong and
- those who actually did nothing wrong.
For these latter ‒ even though someone else committed the crime, or no crime was ever committed ‒ they landed in prison, none-the-less. This last realization should shock all Americans, as it did me, Michael Stickler, aka: Inmate Number 47483-048.
While we think our justice system doesn’t make mistakes ‒ or, maybe, we have just watched too many TV police shows, where everything is black and white and the system is always right ‒ the truth is this: At least one-third of the currently-estimated two-million people incarcerated in the US, fall into one of these two camps of the innocent. Yup. Between 500,000 and 700,000 Americans who are actually innocent of their criminal accusation are held every day in prison[i] ‒a modern-day tragedy.
Only because I happened to be detained with Cliven Bundy, for about two months at the Southern Nevada Detention Center in Pahrump, am I able to tell you his story. There, we formed a deep and lasting relationship , talking through his story – a story which hasn’t been fully or honestly told in any other medium.
Cliven Bundy rose to national prominence in 2014 during a confrontation with government officials when he challenged their authority over public land ownership and management ‒ Government/media term: “Standoff,” Cliven’s term: “Protest.”
The 2014 incident stemmed from over-reaching Federal land-use policies in the eleven Western states ‒ most pronounced in Nevada. This was the latest chapter of the dispute that started in 1993, when Bundy ‘fired’ the Bureau of Land Management for non-performance of their legally-required duties, in effect, by declining to renew his permit for cattle grazing on BLM-administered public lands near Bunkerville, Nevada.
Early on, recalling the prisoner categories I’ve described above had me wondering which one fit Cliven: “whack-a-doo?” After all, he was taking on the Federal Government of the United States of America. Well, if he was, he was certainly a likable one. “Time will tell,” I remember thinking.
But there is much more to tell about the story of Cliven Bundy … so stay tuned.
Learn more about Cliven Bundy: American Terrorist Patriot or get your book copy here.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, ex-felon, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column. (MikeStickler.com)