Thursday, August 22, 2013


(One of the first pieces of advice to someone stuck in a deep hole...unable to see anything but darkness around them...stop digging.)

     The process of being indicted, pleading, being sentenced and surrendering to go to prison causes many who experience it to go into shock.  I am embarrassed to admit this condition lasted for me well into my first year in Beaumont, Texas.  (Beaumont is a story for another day but suffice it to say it is considered by "inmates" the worst compound in the entire Bureau of Prisons)  I have vague, and sometimes no memories of numerous court dates, decisions, discussions about my fate. (I wish I knew then what I know now, I could have participated more in my fate)  When I first got to Beaumont, a number of my roommates (cellies to old style cons) said they wanted to take away my shoelaces and belt at night for fear I wouldn't be viable the following morning.

     Everything had been taken from me.  My job, career, reputation, and future were wrecked as far as I could tell.  You haven't lived until you watch the news-crawl on CNN or MSNBC and there is your name along with the accusation of engaging in a crime which may be the only one worse than what Michael Vick was accused of.  My family is left behind in tatters, 2/3 of their income gone...tens of thousands of dollars in debt just for legal fees.  (n.b. a complete waste of money)...more day-to-day debt piling up...embarrassed and humiliated and forced to explain actions by their husband or father which to them were inexplicable.  People you thought were friends throw you under the bus as fast as they can and with great relish...they always knew there was something wrong with you...they were always suspicious...they weren't that close to you to begin with...some, even at your worst moment, try to use the situation to their advantage. (blackmail anyone?)  When all is said and done, the amount of time to be served is less relevant than the damage and ramifications and psychic destruction already reaping their toll.

     None of the above is intended to sound like whining or crying or bemoaning poor me.  I screwed up...made horrible choices...hurt strangers I didn't know...devastated friends I did ego and pride led this parade of destruction and I have no one to blame but myself.  However, that being said, the description of what the process does to the individual is relevant because last night I watched a man taken out of my unit on a gurney after he attempted suicide by cutting his throat.  (we don't know if he succeeded or not, and will never be told officially one way or the other)

     We were kept outside for quite some time.  As I wandered about, snippets of conversation wafted towards me.  More than once I heard men admitting they too have had thoughts about suicide at one point or another while in government custody.  I am one.  Before my disaster became public, it seemed like a good idea to just cease to exist.  No one would find out about my stupidity and sins and my family would be spared all the publicity and embarrassment and humiliation.  It was a win/win least it seemed that way to me because I was still digging and it was getting darker and darker.

     The inmate last night had reportedly been seriously depressed almost since the day he arrived.  According to rumors, he had been taking meds while outside, meds which were denied to him in here.  He was convinced no one, not his family or friends, colleagues or society in general, would forgive him.  He had told people he was sure the government would never leave him alone.  (not an unrealistic belief considering what we now know about massive data mining and spying)  He had a very short time before he was to be released, (in here it is called being short to the door), but the closer he got to leaving, the more it was reported he was scared and despondent and convinced of the hell which awaited him.  He had lost all hope.

     Hope appears to be something without which we can't function as a society.  Hope is what convinces the young to forego immediate gratification and pursue an education, or other avenues aimed at producing a better future, and it is feeling hope-less which convinces so many to engage in behavior which is self destructive...convinced the future holds nothing for them.  Hope is why we marry and commit to one person.  Hope is what enables us to persevere through the darkest of times knowing there is a dawn coming.  Hope is vital to making it through the day.

     Losing hope is what tears people and nations apart.  Only the hopeless can be recruited to become human bombs.  Only the hopeless can be convinced to engage in genocide and persecution.  Only the hopeless will think an act of selfishness can be transformed into one of selflessness.  The more hopeless a society, the worse of it is.  The war on terror is clearly a war between those who feel hopeless and see no future vs. those who believe conditions and environments can improve.  The most important metric of our society is not the stock market or the health of the auto or home's not G.D.P. (Gross Domestic Product) or manufacturing's not even how many newly minted billionaires there are this year.  The most important factor determining our national survival is whether or not we and our children have hope.

     Despite Attorney General Eric Holder's recent pronouncements, the American prison system, and criminal/justice industry, will not be fixed if a few less people are jailed.  If you want people to come out and not commit crime again, they have to emerge with the hope things can be better.  This system destroys hope.  Once someone is convicted and incarcerated, they lose everything, or think they do.  The people who run this system are accessories to the suicide attempt.  This person needed psychological intervention...needed possible medication...needed professional help all of which is available in limited amounts if at all in here.  He needed reassurance from outside he was till loved and valued.  He needed to know after he paid his debt to society he would get another shot at redemption.  (unfortunately, the punishment never is prohibited, entire professions off-limits, skills and expertise acquired over a lifetime useless, employers refused to hire and church congregations turn their back.)

     Why couldn't this man find hope?  Despite the inhumanity of this place, many inmates apparently tried to talk to him, counsel him, Dutch-uncle him, pay attention to him.  He was a daily reader of scripture and some tried to point out the God of both Hebrew and Christian scripture is a God of hope with a message of reassurance and forgiveness.  Nothing seemed to reach him as the drumbeat of hopelessness, composed by those who built this system, drowns out the loudest Amen or Alleluia.

     At the end of the day, my love for my wife and children, (and their professed love of me), and the realization I had already hurt them once with my selfishness and out-of-control ego, convinced me I couldn't do it again.  This, along with support and love from both friends, and strangers who have become friends...acts of kindness from convicted felons who populate my world these days, helped me to overcome despair and hopelessness.  My sin gave way to the epiphany of a forgiving God always willing to welcome a prodigal son back home and a belief second chances is possible.

     I am so lucky and blessed and my prayer for this man last night if his attempt fails...he opens himself to the love of his God...this system which failed him miserably becomes more accountable...he comes to realize no sin is too heinous to be forgiven and living a full life is the best way to secure the redemption he seeks.  My hope for him is he comes to see his life as a gift and understands there are second and even third acts if one is willing to get up off the floor.  We all need hope whether in prison or wherever we are and we only get it by acknowledging we are not in this alone and refusing to let anything or anyone dehumanize us or convince us the future is to be feared rather than anticipated.  If I can do it, so can you... I hope.


  1. Love you, Bernie. The world would be much emptier if you had managed to leave on your own accord - you have a gift of connecting with people through your words, which I wish I had... you're actually really very lucky - take it from someone that feels locked away inside. That's my prison, and I'm not getting out. You've connected enough with people - your family - sounds like they're forgiving you and taking you back. And there's people like me that are still listening/reading what you have to say.
    I'm so happy for you that you're most of the way through your time. From how you're writing, you're going to come out a better person. Even though I loved you, I always thought that you had no sympathy or patience with people.
    The world really is a better place with you in it. Maybe no one thought that about the person in your unit that went out on the gurney.... You're really a very lucky person.

  2. Hi Bernie,
    It's been a while for me. Hope has been a shadowy thing for me this past year, and grief harder than I expected. My future seems iffy. I'm glad to see this hopeful post from you and am grateful for it. May you and this prison acquaintance and all of us find renewed hope in God with us, who loves and carries us. Thanks so much! Carole

  3. Hi Bernie, that is a powerfull post you have written. I am so glad you have hope and you've survived alot of challanging times and events.
    Keep hangin in there Bernie, stay positive, You've got an great attitude!!!!! Thanks for that great post... Keep em coming!!!
    Best Wishes Chris

  4. Thank you Bernie. You give me hope and I am so thankful to still be receiving your words of wisdom.

  5. Dear Bernie,
    So many of us, myself included, miss you terribly.
    Your latest post is very inspiring. I have absolute faith that when you return to will bring our shallow/ignorant world a great new source of insight, understanding and wisdom. I look forward to that day with great hope in my heart.

  6. Please hang in there Bernie. We'll be waiting for you to be free from the hell you're in now.

  7. Have you read Victor Frankl "Man's search for meaning", it's about hope, you can find it on line free, I think.
    Could you please talk about Syria?

  8. I second the comment above, please do a post on Syria. In my opinion, the U.S. and the other Western countries should stay out of it, as it's too hot to handle. It could easily blow up into a much bigger thing.

  9. Bernie, you are blessed to be able to feed your despair with hope and find in that consolation.
    I cannot imagine what you have been through nor the hell that incarceration brings.
    You are an inspiration to us. I only hope that forgiveness is the other wing in redemption.
    Never give up!

  10. "... last night I watched a man taken out of my unit on a gurney after he attempted suicide by cutting his throat. (we don't know if he succeeded or not, and will never be told officially one way or the other)"

    Hi Bernie,

    Didn't follow this... Why wouldn't you be told?

    1. They aren't told because in prison, inmates do not ask the guards about other inmates, or they might be viewed as being someone that snitches to the guards. In prison, you mind your own business.

  11. Dear Bernie:
    How I miss hearing your voice every night in my own living room!

    Today, the 18 year old son of my best friend was found dead in his jail cell. He was in jail awaiting bail on a crime that he did not commit; we had no chance to prove this because he did not have a trial. The police evidence was extremely sketchy and witnesses were able to place him in a public place at the time the rime was committed. This is the third time he attempted suicide; the authorities KNEW he was a suicide risk, and they did nothing to prevent it.

    I am so glad that the love of family, friends, and fans is helping you to rise above your physical situation; I hope that you will help the rest of us bring hope and justice to those of you subjected to the US's horrible system of incarceration.

    I am looking forward to your return to the rest of us.

    God Bless You,
    Lisa from Oakland

  12. Bernie,

    Every day you are "shorter to the door", looking forward to seeing you on the other side!


  13. Bernie, you were one of the best talk show hosts ever, and your insight is needed now more than ever. I wish you a good entry back into the "real" world and hope you will continue to speak out on the issues of the day, which seem to get worse all the time.

  14. Bernie, all of these experiences have made you deeper, more real. Your experience showed you what and who mattered in your life. With the technological advances in the last 6 years, you still can have a future in political commentary. I've listened to you since Got Talk in 1986 and I'm not that old and hope to hear you again.

  15. Bernie,
    Your writing is beautiful and eloquent. I do hope you're penning a'll need a new career pretty soon.
    Take care.

  16. bernie

    long time fan here... can't wait until u return.

    bush administration screwed you..

    keep the faith brother

  17. I used to listen to you on KGO in Northwest Washington State even though I disagreed with your leftist liberal political ideology. You were excellent as a talk show host and you certainly got people "thinking". I hope these next few months will go well for you and that you'll be able to regain some of what you lost. I have a friend in the Seagoville FCI who was sentenced to 10 years for just having looked at that stuff on his computer when he accidentally landed on one of the sites. Apparently, the FBI was wiretapping several computers in that section of Florida at the time and he was one of 9 people convicted for possessing the stuff in the computers.

  18. Bernie,
    You have a unique perspective and I value it. I'm sure others do and will, too. You have a voice and I hope you'll use it, here, and hopefully in the press and on the radio again one day. All the best to you.

  19. I too hope with you that this nightmare is only months to the end for you. As you know the broadcast media has vastly changed. Except for some weekend spots, with; Brent Walters, Michael Finney and Brian Copeland, and maybe one or two other weekend hosts .. KGO and the terrestrial format for anything progressive is dead for the most part. WCPT for example has a number of am and fm terrestial outlets in the Chicago area, but I listen to them on their internet stream. There are probably a few others out there that do the same thing. Nearly ALL my progressive listening is through Internet Radio these days. And I suspect that's where you'll end up if you choose to continue in 2015.. There's certainly a mission out there for you. Whether you can call it a 'career' and make it "job worthy" will be the challenge. But your Lion's voice is certainly still needed!

  20. We are studying the Books of Acts right now in Bible Study. If Jesus could forgive Saul (Paul) of Tarus then He can forgive you. We miss your insight to many of the problems we face here in this country. Stay strong and keep your faith in God. He may still have plans for you. May God bless you and keep you safe.

  21. Did you get released? WE MISS YOU BERNIE!!!!

  22. hey Bernie. This i along time loyal listener of yours from San Diego. A long time listener of your 10 PM-1AM program on KGO. When I first heard about you getting indicted on kiddie porn charges. A few emotions were going through my mind. Anger, confusion, sorrow, etc. I felt betrayed, because you were one of the few people on radio I loved.But when it comes to child sex predators, I have absolutely no love or forgiveness for those people. That said, I'm glad you're out of prison and back with your family in San Francisco. And that you admit that you messed up with the kiddie porn thing. Which obviously is really bad. At least you didn't physically abuse kids like that Hypo Christian freak Josh Duggar. Or that other freak being charged for sexual assault Dennis Hastert. But child porn is pretty bad. And I want to end by saying this, as a loyal long time listener. I FORGIVE YOU.

  23. I know you feel a lot of remorse for what you've done in terms of your transgressions. And that you're sorry for what you did. And as a long time listener, I forgive you. But I'm glad you are out of prison, and back with your family in the Bay Area. Everyone deserves forgiveness and redemption. On a personal note, I know in my heart that you would NEVER physically harm a child. And that you know that you made a horrible mistake in the past. And that you aid the consequences for your mistake. That said, you're back with your family. And hopefully you can get your life back on track. And possibly one day, come out publicly, and help talk about the evils of child sexual abuse in America. Whether it be through blogs, the radio, or whatever.

    1. I totally agree...take as much time you need and let us hear that you are OK....

  24. I almost never listened to Bernie on the radio because I disagreed with him about everything. I thought of him as another obnoxious liberal. I was happy when he was arrested. I'm now sorry I felt that way. About a year later, I learned a friend from school had done roughly the same things Bernie had. I know my friend is a good person. I hope Bernie is, too.