Prison really messed Todd up. After robbing 3 banks, while hooked on cocaine, Todd was sentenced to a maximum security prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. His sentence was only five years behind bars. But most of the guys in the supermax prison were in there for life, with little chance of getting out, so Todd says the inmates ran the prison, allowing for gangs to assert their power.
“The gangs ride together when there’s a riot. Otherwise they don’t get along,” said Todd.
Most gangs were comprised of people from the inmates’ home state, or his ethnicity. But some gangs had more power, Todd says.
“My first shower I got chased out, jumped over the wall and over the tier, because some dudes were after me. The guys from Minnesota told me I couldn’t shower by myself. They had to boot-up and watch you take a shower. It was an education for me,” said Todd.
Attacked by a Prison Gang
Todd was warned multiple times to find protection in prison; he was even visited by a white supremacist gang member who told him he needed to join their white supremacist gang, Todd refused.
“I ignored the protection offers, I figured I was old enough to know how to act and not be disrespectful,” said Todd.
But Todd soon found, his short stature made him easy to pick on, and his Minnesota gang wasn’t big enough to intimidate the more powerful gangs.
“One time I was in my cell alone, which is not a good place to be. These guys who were a part of a gang, came in, beat me and raped me. They hurt me bad, I was laying on the ground and couldn’t stand up for a month. They almost left me for dead,” he said.
Todd said he couldn’t report it to the guards, because he believed the gang members would come back and either kill him or continue to attack him.
“I was like a mouse in a lion’s cage. It was the wild kingdom in prison, only the strong survive. I was a fighter, and I didn’t commit suicide like most other victims did,” he said.
Todd experienced this brutal gang rape once more in his cell; until the East Coast Italian gang offered to protect him.
‘We don’t want anything from you,’ they told him. ‘You sit at our table, you walk the yard with us and you’re going home. You don’t owe us anything,’ they said. “That doesn’t happen, everything costs in prison; you usually have to pay for it one way or another, in stamps or in cigarettes. I owe my life to those guys,” said Todd.
Todd said the haunting feeling of being someone’s prey in prison, left him jumpy and scared all the time. Even seeing someone’s shadow could freak him out.
Medicating the Pain Away
When he finally got out of prison on work release, he went back to his drug habit.
“It self-medicates me so I don’t think of the demons in my head. They took my soul,” said Todd.
“When I first came home, my brothers knew right away that something happened in prison and that I was changed. It took me a while before I told them. When I finally told them you could hear a pin drop. I was angry and embarrassed,” said Todd.
Todd’s probation officer didn’t know about the trauma he’d experienced in prison. And Todd kept using drugs. A few years out of prison, Todd finally got caught using drugs while on probation. He couldn’t keep his secret any longer, and told his probation officer about the abuse he suffered in prison. A court-order psychiatrist diagnosed him as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I ended up in a state prison that was meant for psychiatric help. The shrink recommended medication, and said I needed to forgive those guys. But at the time, if you’d have lined them up in a line, and gave me a gun, I’d kill them. I’d get my revenge,” said Todd.
Another time while out on parole, Todd said his parole officer stopped taking his calls, so Todd got in trouble for leaving him a phone message, telling him he was leaving town for work. Todd went back to prison to finish his time.
Seeking a Relationship with the Lord
Todd’s back out now on work release. He chose to live at Damascus Way because it was a religious program.
“I’m not even baptized so I figured this might be my chance, my way out,” he said. “I needed something that would help me with the problem that I have, to help me with my demons, so I can get rid of my drug addiction. I think getting help with my demons, will help me get rid of my drug addiction.”
Todd has been attending church services at Oak Grove Church, down the road from Damascus Way in Golden Valley.
“Church is everything for me right now. I’m counting on a visit from G-O-D, a sign, I need it bad. I’m not going to give up on my faith, I’m not a quitter. I enjoy church, I enjoy the community. The people there are so nice, they act like they’ve know me for years,” said Todd.
Todd has been attending a Bible study on Sunday nights at Damascus Way.
“I have a lot of gratitude for this place. Without this place, where would we be? I’d be stuck in prison,” he said.
To give back to Damascus Way, out of gratitude, Todd and some other residents have worked on the house and patched up the roof.
Slowly, Todd is starting to be released from his fears and anxieties while at Damascus Way.
“My first week here at Damascus Way, I had an attack in my sleep. I had to tell my roommates that I got messed up in prison. Now, the attacks aren’t as frequent, they are dying down,” he said.
Todd is actively seeking to have a faith life, and he prays God releases him from all of his demons and addictions. He is trying to forgive the men who assaulted him in prison, and by the grace of God he’s learning to forgive himself.
“I’m giving it a shot. I’m going to turn my life over to God. I’m struggling a little bit with some of my faith, but I’m early in the Christian days, not years,” said Todd.