March 27, 2020
Contact: FDC Communications
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you need from me? If I could give you anything within my authority as Secretary, what would you ask for? Careful, there is a reason for this question. Your request will tell me a lot about you. Will your request be of an immediate concern and involve personal protection from the virus? No need to ask, we are working hard on that! Will your request be more about getting stuff? Will your request result in pleasure or entertainment? Will your request create for you status or give you power over others? If you ask your true desire, I will know what motivates you.
I recently visited Union C.I. While there, an inmate asked me to allow in a banned book. The book is “Destruction of Black Civilization” by Chancellor Williams. I had our Literature Review Committee reevaluate the book and they removed it from our prohibited publications list. But I was intrigued with the request. I don’t personally know why the man, when given the unplanned chance to talk with the Secretary, chose to ask for a book. But I think there is something “right” about pursuing knowledge and meaning in one’s own or another’s ethnic history. So, I ordered the book for myself and have added it to my pile of books to read.
When you order a book or go to the library, what are you looking for? My father was a professor and author of over 60 books. His books address deep theological and social issues and are filled with amazing insights and wisdom. But titles such as “Psychology in the Psalms,” “Scripture as Story” and “Saga of the Spirit” never hit the best seller list. On the other hand, there is one book by another author who also wrote 40 books of great insight and wisdom. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl sold over 12 million copies. Imagine that, 12 million people bought a book because of a title that described their emptiness. Similarly, a book by Rick Warren, with a title of “The Purpose Driven Life,” sold over 34 million copies! Wow, that many people were searching for their life to have purpose.
Do you now see the reason behind my first question? Most requests we receive are about gaining power or pleasure. But shouldn’t you want me to give you a chance to find meaning and purpose? That is something to discuss! Where do you want to see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years? How do you want to be able to positively affect your family, community, and a greater cause? Think and act on that and you will find meaning! You can make a choice TODAY to search for meaning, instead of pursuing power or pleasure. I cannot make that choice for you. You must figure out what cause is greater than yourself, that takes ahold of your focus and effort. It is that simple, that hard, and that important.
I have a specific message for men and women with longer sentences, to include Life. If in your search for meaning, you want to better the lives of others around you, we will figure out a way for you to have that opportunity. This programming research and redesign will take some time, creativity, and probably the agonizing process of changing rules. But I am committed to looking for ways for you to be able to act on behalf of others, for you to find and feel meaning.
Last Wednesday evening, I sat in the State Capitol House Gallery to watch a historic vote. Following a Senate vote two days prior—a unanimous vote, I might add—our two bills to reestablish the Inmate Welfare Trust Fund made it to the House floor. After 17 years, and with another unanimous vote, the House voted to send the Senate Bill to the Governor for his signature. Let me say that again another way, on your behalf and to provide you tools for your search for meaning, not a single Senator or Representative voted against reestablishing the Inmate Welfare Trust Fund.
To conclude, allow me to provide you a quote from Dr. Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance, to choose one’s own way.” I didn’t mention it before, but Dr. Frankl was Jewish and survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, before writing his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” That man had the life experiences to confirm and validate his insights and encouragements to us.
As Florida's largest state agency, and the third largest state prison system in the country, FDC employs 24,000 members, incarcerates approximately 90,000 inmates and supervises nearly 155,000 offenders in the community.