This post is part of a series on what it’s like to be an atheist in prison. To read other parts in the series, click here. Some of these inmates have done things that, to many of you, will be unforgivable. I will be disclosing some of their names, so you can easily find out what they’ve done to end up in lockup. You may be disgusted to find out their crimes, and you have every right to be. This series, for the most part, will not be about their crimes. I’m interested in painting a picture of what life is like for nonbelievers in prison. If you find it is too upsetting to be part of giving them a platform, please choose not to read this. You don’t have to be part of it.
With that said, I’ve sent each inmate some preliminary questions to get the conversation going. If you find you have questions that arise as you read their responses, please post them in the comments below or email them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure the person gets them.
Mike Webber is serving a sentence for the murder of his father. He claims the killing was in self-defence. He completes a 20-year sentence next month after being caught on the run in Mexico in 1998. He is likely to be released in May but kept on supervised parole for his natural life. This portion of his letter is carried on from last week’s, which you can read here.
I was offered placement in a religious halfway house and refused because I did not want to have to deal with religion on a daily basis after I am out of prison. I want to be free from all the BS I was forced to endure in prison. A lot of assistance housing, shelters, food banks and clothing assistance are religiously based. I do not know yet if Lacamas County, that I will probably be paroling to, has a non-religious based housing and has room or will accept me. I don’t know if they will allow me to parole to the street on my own as a bum (homeless) as I have no money, assets, family or friends in Oregon to parole to or with. I almost want to parole homeless to truly be free for once. No rules or being forced to live with people. But it is probably not too wise. I do have an ex-wife in Mexico and kids with her that want me to go to Mexico to live with them but my counselor told me that I cannot leave this country while on post-prison supervision for life – at least legally, anyway. I have a hard parole date so they should not be able to prevent me from paroling. However, I just got under 90 days to parole a month ago and they checked my file and found an old disciplinary sanction from 2000 that had not redacted 50 days good time like it was supposed to so they just added a month-and-a-half to my sentence again. Now I parole May 17th instead of April 7th sucks but I have already lost about 16 months good time.
In some states, parole boards have openly cited a prisoner finding God as a reason for early parole, but in this state, I do not know how much religion influences parole matters. Having a church group supporting you, giving you a place to live, etc. probably helps at least some. I was referred to the prison chaplain for programs, classes and assistance and probably as some kind of psychological test. Interestingly enough, mental health has not contacted me or evaluated me face-to-face as you think they would or should for someone locked up 21 years for murder about to get out. The people in mental health play many games and I have seen before in mental institutions and juvenile prisons they have someone provoke you to see what you do. They get you to talk about something they can use against you or something. Many lifers are now mandated (or were – the law gets changed a lot) to have to pass a psychological exam before they could parole but my commission date was before that law went into effect and I have a determinate sentence. This may sound paranoid but I have seen a lot of such things over the years. Mental health is on the same “team” as the rest of the system. There’s a priest I was told was on the “team of staff” evaluating me and generating my parole plans/assessment they have to do by law all the last few months. He dramatically slapped down a stack of paper while telling me he was just reading my “chronicles” (staff logs on a particular individual from the last 21 years). Obviously, I was supposed to be curious and asked to read them so he could start a conversation on what he wanted me to talk about. I declined and ended the meeting as soon as possible.
I have refused to talk to mental health since I was a juvenile for what bullshit they pulled on me. Except for once, when I tried to get a hardship move back to another prison 18 years ago and the psychologist immediately tried to get me to tell him who else I killed right after I told him I was innocent for what I was in prison for because it had been self-defense. He continued that it was confidential and it couldn’t be used against me and that people like me probably killed other people! Government shows no mercy or decency or common sense. Sometimes it just mindlessly pursues its agenda. Anyway, the chaplain gives or coordinates religious based anger management and management of family and other classes that you may be required to take for transitional leave or early release. Also, other assistance or programs and fundraisers are done by or through the chaplain’s office. It seems that religious people, except maybe Muslims and some alternative religions, have more official and unofficial support and acceptance. They seem more outgoing and public with their religion because they are in the majority but it is hard to know who is really happy or just fronting/acting to hide their problems and vulnerabilities or delusional, etc.
It does seem that some religious people, mainly Christian fundamentalist groups, some Jews, and Muslims see themselves as being attacked by people having other, contrary beliefs. They form their own subgroups to proactively defend themselves by jumping into private conversations around them to correct misconceptions. In essence, arguing down views they do not like, asserting their own agenda. Religious people attack evolution or science and try to preach to you. However, this is not unique to religion. Politics, economics and other subjects get similar emotional arguments. I had to put myself on the writeaprisoner.com website for pen pals as an atheist and a 19-year-old man kept writing me and preaching to me even after I wrote him explaining I would never believe in God and not to preach to me. By the way, I would like some penpals if you could hook me up with some, thank you. My social skills suck and I am very straightforward and do not like kissing ass and lying; telling people what they want to hear, unlike most people. I do not offer fantasy/Romance type conversation that most people seem to want writing a prisoner. Don’t get me wrong, I like physical relationships with women. I just do not see the point in fantasy romance talk. I am more practical or maybe just an undesirable, lame loser. Oh well, I am quite a nerd. I study a lot of technical science subjects.
It also seems from the patterns I’ve seen over the years, some staff and inmates tend to have confluences of interest, whether organized or not. I don’t know, could be just a coincidental function of human nature. But some religious people begin to focus on you; refuting you for spreading lies; putting you in your place; exposing you or politically sabotaging you to make people stop listening to you. They want people to stop respecting you or what you have to say, especially if you preach science and evolution or atheism and seem influential or liked. It happens after quite a few major mass shootings like Sandy Hook years ago and like one that was attributed to an atheist where he killed a schoolgirl for saying she believes in God. Articles in newspapers, religious magazines and even in national news also blamed it on people with mental diseases. They said we need to take guns away from them, lock them up, keep them on medication forcibly, etc. Oregon now has laws that allow forcible medication. People with suspected mental diseases seem to get harassed more, trying to force them to submit to mental health medication or get right with God or commit suicide. People seem to invent any excuse to persecute innocent people to satisfy their emotions or agenda. Like persecuting Muslims after 9/11.
Yes, Mike ended his letter this abruptly. My guess is that he ran out of paper. Here’s a picture of the end of his letter:
You can see how he has tried to squeeze as much as possible into the end of the page. Paper is not as easy to come by in prison as it is out here. Neither are stamps and envelopes. It’s a shame, as I would have liked to see how he continued.
I want to know what you think of the things Mike has said – do you believe it’s possible he is innocent? Let me know in the comments! Or if you would prefer to write to Mike yourself, you can send him a letter:
Michael Webber #12362542
4005 Aumsville Hwy SE
Salem, OR 97317 US
Next week, we’ll meet a new inmate and coming up, I have an update from Pablo! Make sure you’re signed up to receive updates in your inbox as I post these. The form to sign up is in the top right sidebar. Or you can follow me on Twitter for all my updates: @godless_mom