by Steven Dybvad

8/28/14 – I just spent the last 45 min. or longer on writing a blog entry for today and somehow this screwed up, faulty Jpay tablet of mine erased the entire thing. I’m just so frustrated right now, I need to take some deep breaths and calm down. Speaking of faulty things going haywire, this is what my whole entry was about in the first place. A friend pointed out to me the alarming fact that the fate of our future hangs within the balance of a possibly faulty urine cup or disdainful prison staff member. I hesitate even writing about this in the first place because the topic of me and substance abuse is the most fragile topic of them all, my addiction to substances is the very thing that led me to where I am today, five years in prison and a lifetime of pain for my family and I. To even mention that I’m concerned about a drug test coming back positive would surely instill doubt in my family. I myself wasn’t worried until someone else pointed out a few viable concerns. In the past I’ve been drug tested a number of times on the streets and a number of times the test cups were faulty, having to take another test in a better cup. At any given day there is an average of 2,000 inmates here at Madison, that’s 2,000 urine screens. I’m told through rumors that the lab is using dipsticks in the cup to test for drugs, so what if some of the 2,000 dipsticks are bad, what will they do; just mark it off as positive? What if one of the staff members has it out for me, contaminating my cup, or mixing it up with someone else’s?… If I had a faulty cup or get found guilty for a drug screen, it wouldn’t be me or the punishment I’m concerned with because I know I’m three years sober, no it’s the devastation it would cause my family. There’s no way they would believe some crazy story about a bad cup or staff member scorned, I have entirely too much history with drug addiction and a lifetime of golden excuses. At the end of the day, I can’t really say that I’m too worried about this whole situation. I have faith that God will take care of me and reward me for the greater path in life that I have chosen over the last three and a half years.

8/27/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: The wildest thing happened today, my first urine screen for drugs. But that’s not the crazy part, what’s crazy is the entire prison was urine screened this morning, that’s right, every single inmate in this prison. I woke up at my usual 5:30a.m., made myself a cup of coffee and watched the news for a few minutes before getting ready to start my workout. I could hear more than one guard out in the dayroom which usually means something irregular is happening, so I looked out my cell door window to see what was going on. I could see three guards sitting at a table with boxes and paperwork all around them. I had no idea what they were doing, so I put on my headphones and started doing my crunches, then Kurt jumped out of bed, saying that they were clicking the locks on all of our doors, yelling for us all to come out into the dayroom. That’s when we could see all the urine cups sitting on the tables. As I looked around I could see many surprised faces, many worried faces and also some indifferent faces too. Nobody saw this coming. I’ve heard people say before that nobody ever gets a urine test in here because the prisons can’t afford to do it. This is a common rumor because inmates don’t usually get a drug screen unless staff has a substantial reason to believe someone has been using drugs and this is my first time in over three years that I’ve been tested. Well actually it might be my second time, because I think I was tested at Lebanon, but I’m not sure if that was for medical reasons, or a normal drug screening procedure. At about 6a.m. is when everybody was called off our cells, from that point the guards told us we had until 9a.m. to pee in a cup, or else be automatically counted as a positive for drug and alcohol abuse. One at a time, in order starting with the first cell in the block, the guards called out our names, handed us a urine cup and escorted us to our cell to watch us pee in a cup. One man at a time, one cell at a time, you can imagine that this took all morning. My cell is one of the last ones on the top range so Kurt and I had to patiently wait for a couple of hours to be called. Having already drunk a strong cup of coffee I was certainly ready to get it over with. Close to four hours later they finally finished with everybody in the unit. Having many inmates say they were unable to urinate, likely trying to avoid an inevitable dirty urine screen. Later on, after count and in horticulture class talking to other inmates is when I realized that it wasn’t just my unit to get drug tested, it was the entire compound. Now many inmates are wondering just what they’re going to do as punishment for so many positive drug screens at the same time. Generally dirty urine means an automatic trip to the hole. Many men are saying that there isn’t enough room in the hole for all the dirty urines. Fortunately, as a man with more than three years of sobriety I have nothing to worry about, yet I am anxious to see just how many inmates test positive for drugs or alcohol and exactly what they’re going to do with them.

8/26/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: Part of being in prison is paying an inmate with access to your laundry to ensure that your clothes aren’t stolen and their washed with the proper amounts of soap, folded correctly so that they don’t get all wrinkled up, etc. A laundry porter is a job assignment through the prison much like everything else, so not every inmate can do it all hours of the day. Here at Madison we do have limited access to the washers and dryers, enabling an inmate to do his own laundry, but if you don’t want your laundry stolen you must remain in the laundry room for the entire process, which is nearly impossible because it’s a small room and you have to get out of the way for the laundry porters and other inmates to move around. I have had the same laundry porter wash my clothes the entire time I’ve been here, but I’m very close to finding another man for the job. I have done nothing but good for this man and he continues to try and take advantage of me, always asking for a payment advance among other things. I try to keep a good attitude with this guy, yet he continues to test my patience as well as my good character. I think because he sees I’m a nice guy that stays out of trouble and to myself that I must be some kind of fool or a pushover. I’ve paid this man three months in advance so far and he continues to ask me for things. I finally told him that I wasn’t going to give him anymore until we’re even which is three months away. Now I think he’s shorting me on my laundry detergent by taking some detergent out when I give him my laundry, my clothes aren’t getting folded as properly as they use to and I’m pretty sure he’s switching my dryer sheets out with old ones. This is classic actions of a criminal, displaying drug addict behavior, clearly not caring about other people and only about himself. Just being able to write this in my blog has allowed me to process the information clearly enough to realize it’s time to cut all ties and find a new laundry porter.

8/25/14 – My friend, Kurt is educated and cultured in the   musical arts, he listens to a broad range of music on his JP4 player. It   seems like every time I ask him about a group, or band, or song, he not only   knows exactly who and what I’m talking about, but he usually has it on his   player already. Kurt listens to a lot of music, from every style and date in   our American history. My parents and grandparents have always listened to a   wide variety of music also, so I’ve already developed an interest for things   such as jazz, blues, Frank Sinatra, reggae, etc., if my family played it then   I listened to it. But I never was drawn to the music they listened to until   now, now that I hear Kurt listen to much of all this different music that I   see and hear it all differently now. Now this music brings a calming sense of   peace into my life that I never felt before. Growing up, my friends were all   listening to the hard rock, the rap and the R&B stuff, so naturally   that’s what I’ve been drawn to for many years. Now that I’m sober, trying to   find peace in my daily life and improve the quality of my life I can see the   value in other music that I never saw before. If you listen to the lyrics to   hard rock, rap and all this other up to date stuff that gets played out on   the radios, you’ll notice it’s all about sex, drugs, bad relationships,   money, violence and rage. So many negative, shallow, useless topics that   saturate the mind with trouble and turbulence, the opposite of that calming,   serene sense of peace and love with self that I’m always searching for these   days. So I made a personal commitment to start investing in better music,   purchasing blues and jazz music any time I have extra money for more music on   my player. It all originally started with my daily morning yoga and   meditation, wanting something to help me clear my mind and thoughts each   morning, so I purchased an album from Depak Chopra, with mantras and sounds   of waterfalls and flutes and other soothing sounds and it all made me feel so   light and clear headed, so I downloaded more Depak Chopra, falling in love   with the new found sense of peace each morning, I realized this was something   I needed, something I had to have for myself and my sober life, not just in   the mornings, but whenever I have the chance to make peace with myself,   letting go of things I have no control over and letting God take the reins in   my life. I still listen to new music such as new rock and R&B, especially   when I’m working out, trying to stay pumped up and energized enough to push   through it, but now I listen to many other great things throughout the day.   The last album I purchased was Miles Davis, not a single lyric spoken or   sung, just great sounding instruments.


9/1/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: As a result of my unblemished   prison record, my security level has been lowered once again. Being convicted   of a first degree felony classified me to a level 3, high security prison in   the state of Ohio. Through the grace of God and a dedication to living a   better life, a sober life and working towards a successful future starting   from inside prison I managed to stay out of trouble. Having a couple very   close calls with gang members at level 3 Lebanon I was still able to avert   any serious trouble by keeping to myself, staying in my cell for the majority   of the time each and every day, minimizing my exposure to the harsh reality   of a dangerous prison, where drinking, drugging, tattooing, fighting, raping,   stabbing, murder and suicide is a common occurrence. By not involving myself   in any of that I was able to get my security dropped in just one year. Having   a security level dropped also means getting transferred to a lower security   prison. So from a level 3 to a level 2, I was transferred here to Madison, a   level 2, medium security prison, where violence and other prison crimes are   less prevalent. Maintaining my dedication to change, creating a new lifestyle   for myself, one that’s rich in good health, peace in mind and soul, hungry   for knowledge opposed to hunting to feed an addiction that destroys   everything and everyone in its’ path, I’ve succeeded in keeping a clean   prison record, once again having my security level dropped from a level 2,   medium security to a level 1, minimum security inmate. My security level is   now as low as it can go. The only reason I have not been shipped out to a   lower security prison is because I’m enrolled in horticulture. Horticulture,   along with any other educational enrollment will place a holding sticker on   any inmate, once the course or class is over the prison will waste no time at   all in transferring me to another prison. Madison has two prisons, the prison   next door is a level 1, minimum security camp and nine times out of ten   that’s where inmates that get their security level lowered end up going to.   So at the end of my twelve month course in horticulture, the prison will   uproot me from my comfortably familiar surroundings one last time and send me   somewhere else. Fortunately by the time I get transferred again I should have   just a few short months left before I get released to a halfway house, saying   goodbye to prison life forever!

9/2/14 – Just when I get in the groove of learning all these plants and trees, my teacher switches it up and starts teaching us bugs. I had no idea that I would even be learning about bugs in horticulture class, but now that my teacher is explaining everything it’s all starting to make sense. A small percentage of the bugs on earth pose a major threat to the life of plants and trees and it’s our job as horticulturalists to identify these bugs and find the best way to eradicate them before they eradicate our plants and trees. I enjoy learning everything taught in my class, it’s a nice change to switch it up and focus on something other than plants for a while too.


9/3/14 – Practicing my guitar has been very difficult for me lately. After breaking all three sets of my E-strings, I had to improvise by using the next string up, which is a B-string and tuning it to the key of E. Having to do this means that the B-strings is getting stretched much tighter then it’s supposed to be, which is in turn causing the string to snap. This is the third and last of my B-strings and just two days ago it also snapped. Now I have no strings left, rendering me unable to practice my guitar until my new order of strings comes in. Due to the strict rules and security measures set in place here at Madison Correctional, getting new guitar strings sent in here is a task in itself. First we have to look up which strings we want to purchase in a magazine through a company called Musicians Friend, and then we have to fill out a form with the order number and information and send it in to the recreation department for approval. Getting an approval for some odd reason takes a long time. This time around it took nearly two months for a response to my request to order new strings. Only after getting an approval can we then place an order. So just last week my order was placed and now I have to wait a couple more weeks for them to get shipped here. After the strings arrive, only God knows how long it will take for the prison to decide when they want to give me my strings. I just hope it doesn’t take too much longer, for I feel I’m at a critical point in my guitar playing, just peeking around the learning curve, ready to start jamming. I have to remind myself to stay humble and be thankful for even having the ability to possess, learn and play the guitar while in prison as a ward of the state, which of course I am very humble and thankful for my many blessings in life. I’ve come a long way in my recovery from addiction, I still have a long way ahead and I will for the rest of my life. I just have a strong, driving force inside of me that wants to continue the path I’ve set in place each day for myself. Sometimes it’s not easy for me when a wrench gets thrown in the mix and I have to get used to the simple fact that in life things occur without notice and we have to learn to adjust. Living as a normal, responsible human being is a strange new way of life for me, but I feel that just like my guitar practice I’m peeking around the learning curve.

9/4/14 – Today is my parent’s 26th anniversary. I was eight years old when the two of them got married. Together the two of them influence so many lives; they’re role models, always setting the stage for what a healthy marriage should be like. I only hope and pray that someday I can find a special woman, someone I can call my soul mate, someone with a big heart, a positive attitude, ethical, with a strong moral compass and most importantly someone that can be a role model for my children, perhaps one day having more children of our own. I have no idea what the future holds in store for me, but I do know that if I continue to live my life each day at a higher standard, strengthening my sobriety as time goes on, practicing what I believe to be a more righteous way to live, then and only then will I attract a healthy soul mate. Until that time I’m in no hurry, I still have a long way to go in my recovery to a life of personal success. I have no doubt that when my time has come to have and nurture a healthy relationship with another human being, God will place her in my life. In the mean time I’ll just keep taking lessons from other great couples such as my mom and dad. Happy Anniversary and to another 26+ years of love and happiness!

9/5/14 – I’m now two classes in to a business course that my   friend, Kurt is teaching. This class is sponsored by the Jaycees members of   which I’m also in the process of becoming a member. This is the second time   that Kurt will have taught a seven week course on the topic of business. I   was going to participate in the class the first time, but there were so many   inmates that had signed up for the class so I offered to wait for the next   course. I must say that my friend, Kurt really knows what he’s talking about,   of course he should because he went to college for it, but stopped before   attaining his MBA, pursuing other business ventures of which I won’t disclose   for a respect of his privacy. Over the past few months I’ve heard many other   inmates comment on how great this class is, how much they learned, giving   them more tools and more hope in pursuing an entrepreneurial dream after   their release. I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can in this class   for it is a dream of my own to one day run a business for myself and have   something to pass on to my children if they choose to take it.



9/6/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: Apparently the 4 mile race has been changed around again. Another inmate tells me that the recreation officer changed the laps around the track from 16 to 12 laps, he said they measured the track and found that 3 1/2 laps is equal to 1 mile, this is a half mile less then what I count which is 4 laps to one mile. That just means I’m a little faster then I originally thought and I also run a little farther each day then I originally thought. I’m also being told that now because of so many inmates signing up for the 4 mile race there’s going to be three separate qualifying races next week, weeding out the slower runners for the yard day event. I went down to the gym to talk with the recreation officer to make sure that all this was true and sure enough he verified everything, saying that nearly twenty inmates signed up for the race and it was just too many runners to keep track of, so next Saturday there will be three separate 4 mile races and only the top three runners from each race will be able to run on yard day. I personally don’t think this is fair to everyone, but none the less I will continue to train hard each day, preparing myself for the qualification race and moving on to give it my best in the main event

9/7/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: For a few weeks now I’ve been hearing about a group of people that go down to the gym on Saturday mornings and practice yoga. Having a passion for yoga, never missing a day that I don’t go without my morning 10:30-11 a.m. ritual of yoga stretching and meditation I was very interested. However hesitant, not knowing who exactly was participating in the class and who the instructor was, I wasn’t sure about going down to find out until yesterday when my friend Kurt told me he was going to go check it out. He assured me that the men in the class are decent guys and the instructor is pretty good as well, so I joined him. At first I was very uncomfortable, we were all in the gym on the sidelines of a basketball game, making it very difficult for me to focus and relax. After about ten or fifteen minutes I started to relax, enjoying some of the new stretches I eventually forgot about the basketball players just feet away from us. I normally take yoga as part of my daily meditation, using it to reflect or just clear my thoughts, this played a role in my trepidation towards joining a group of convicts in a gymnasium, but once I let all that apprehension go I was able to enjoy myself. We did many stretches and yoga poses, for more than an hour we were down in the gym. I plan on doing this again next week, perhaps making it part of my Saturday routine from now on.

9/8/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: A really good friend of the family and friend of mine has been corresponding with me for some time now. I really enjoy writing him; he’s a great man, with a big heart and a warm soul. In our letters we talk about many things, from hunting, fishing, golfing to family, business, politics and religion. It feels good to have people on the outside write and communicate just because they care, wanting nothing in return. In prison it gets a little more difficult with passing time to remember that there are many people that care about you, wanting nothing more than reciprocating love and compassion because of a constant interaction with inmates that function through communication with others only to gain and acquire, no matter what there always seems to be a hidden agenda. Often I write about the negative aspect of prison because that’s all there seems to be to write about. If all is well and I’m having a good day and nothing interesting has occurred, then there’s nothing really to write about. My friend that I correspond with knows about my blog, but has never commented on it to me, so I asked him what he thought and was a little sadden and slightly disturbed to hear that he preferred to stick to our personal letters to each other because my blog is a little dark and it makes him sad to read it. This really opened up my eyes because I never really thought about it in terms of dark and sad, I saw it more along the lines of informing the community of common occurrences in prison. Now that I think about my writing, I can see what he’s talking about. Now I have to wonder how others that read my blog view it. My purpose is not to sadden or depress others, I simply want to inform, update and most importantly hold myself accountable for my day to day life in prison through my writing, thus strengthening my foundation on which to build a successful career and lasting reputation as a contributing member of society upon my release from prison and for the rest of my life. Having said that, from now on I’ll try to keep in mind what I’m writing about and how I portray said topics, with an attempt to sound more informative then depressing. Believe it or not, I’m very happy with my life, even as a prisoner in a state penitentiary, because now I have meaning and purpose, with goals and aspirations. Sobriety has opened my eyes and awakened my inner soul, once again I have feelings, compassion and a love for life, myself and others and a strong desire to create a lasting future that grows with every passing day.

9/9/14 – I’m happy to say that my new guitar strings have finally arrived. It’s been nearly two weeks that have passed since my last string broke, leaving me unable to practice. As soon as I get out of horticulture class this afternoon I’ll be able to go down to the package room and pick them up, by tonight I’ll be back to practicing with great anticipation.
After getting out of class today I went directly to the package room for my guitar strings. The officer on duty was filling in for another worker, not knowing the procedure, he had me sign for my strings, and then told me he was sending them to another office to have them measured and accounted for. I told him that’s not the procedure because my strings are not made of steel, they’re made of nylon and there was no reason for measuring. Reluctantly, the guard shrugged, said okay and handed me my strings. Happy as a kid in a candy store, I went straight back to my cell to restring my guitar. I decided to change all six strings at the advice from my friend Kurt. Frustratingly, before I could even get my D string in tune, it snapped. Hoping it was just a case of bad luck I put on another D string. Then I finally got the last string on, the infamous E string. I tuned my guitar and started practicing. The nylon strings take a while to get in tune because they keep stretching and going back out of tune, so I decided to tune it once more, set it in my guitar case and let it rest. A couple of hours later I pulled my guitar out of its case, having a hard time believing that I was looking at yet another broken E string. At this point I just don’t know what’s going on. Kurt took a look at my guitar and noticed that the nut that holds my strings into place appears to be cutting into my strings. He said that this is happening because my guitar is made to hold steel strings. So we folded some paper and placed it in between the nut and my strings to cushion them a little better. Another E string on my guitar, in tune, resting, hoping and praying that no more break any time soon. Fingers crossed….

9/10/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: As a result of my crime, I was sentenced to a mandatory term of five years, without the possibility of parole or an early judicial release. Half way through my five year sentence I discovered that I am however eligible for T.C. which stands for Transitional Control. Transitional Control is the release from prison to a halfway house, in my case I can be released as early as six months prior to the date of my release. Being eligible for T.C. means that I have already been approved by the prison. Now I just have to be approved by my judge and this is by far an easy task. The judge that oversees my case is very well known for being one of the worst; they call her “The Hammer” for the lengthy sentences that she often hands out to convicted criminals. When I was in court, at the time of my sentencing the judge compared me to a murderer and stated that she would have given me a much lengthier sentence if there wasn’t an agreement in place between the prosecution and the defense attorneys. Fortunately I have many good things going for me. I have done many things with the Straight A program, I’ve adhered to commitment to maintaining my blog, holding myself accountable to each and every day in prison, I have an untarnished record as a model inmate, quickly progressing through security levels, from a 3, to a 2 and now currently at a level one, minimum level security inmate. I’ve taken several different classes to improve the quality of my life and learn whatever I can in order to secure the success of my future, attaining many certificates that were not necessary requirement that usually goes hand in hand with inmates attempting to look good for the parole board. And now I’m working hard to attain a master certification in horticulture. All of these things I’ve taken on as an inmate to improve my life and future. Surely the judge will take these things into consideration when reviewing my case and granting my opportunity for T.C.. Generally, at least the majority of the time I’m told that if an inmate is approved by the prison for T.C., then the judge will likely follows that recommendation. Fingers Crossed

9/11/14 – Taking a moment to remember the victims of the terrible tragedy that happened thirteen years ago today. I remember this day like it was yesterday, watching everything happen on television, on the phone with my mother, scared and wondering what’s going to happen next. I hope my children don’t have to experience this kind of fear in the future, but it’s very possible, war and terror seems to be more common now than ever. Will it ever end?
Today is my last day of school for two weeks; all of the educational classes are taking a break for the fall. My teacher tells me that we’re going to have our biggest test yet today in class. I already know almost everything I’ve been taught in horticulture, I pay close attention to everything, always taking notes and studying until it’s a basic part of my own personal common knowledge, but just to be sure I started going over all my notes, paperwork and books in my possession, making sure I ace this test just as I have aced all my other tests, holding my coveted position among the top of the class.
Well here it is, the last day of school for two weeks and my teacher didn’t show up. I was really looking forward to the big test today, I studied hard for it, and I even skipped my morning run to ensure my success. What’s funny was waiting in the hallway for our instructor to show up, listening to the other guys talk about how they hope our teacher doesn’t show up so they don’t have to take the test, cheering for joy after being told there’s no class today.

9/13/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: I did it! I qualified for the official 4 mile run on yard day. But not only did I just qualify; I took first place in the race. Because there were fifteen other inmates that signed up for the race, they broke it down into three separate qualifying runs this morning; I was in the first heat, setting the time to beat for everyone else. My finish time was 23 minutes, 23 seconds, that means I was running just under six minute miles, much faster than I originally thought I could run. I stuck around for the other two races to see if my friend Kurt would qualify and also to see if anyone else would get a faster time then me, which I was sure would happen. One of the guys I run with on occasion won the second race, but he didn’t beat my time. In the third race an inmate I’ve never ran with before won and beat my time by a whole minute, his time was 22 minutes, 23 seconds, now that’s a great time. At the end of the day I still have the second best time over all the runners, which feels amazing! As I sit and think of my accomplishments, I’m in awe to realize how far I’ve come. Just less than two years ago I was a 270 lb. man, a borderline diabetic, on high cholesterol medication, and here I am today, 165 lbs., six pack abs and a top competitor at the four miles race in a prison with an average of 2,000 inmates on any given day. It feels damn good to be able to step back, take a look at my life, see how much hard work and dedication to change can pay off and then reap the benefits. So now the first and second place runners from today’s three races qualify for the yard day race. That’s six runners competing for the best time on this Wednesday. This will be the real test, the best runners matching a pace with one another, fighting for the finish line. I can’t wait!

9/12/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: As I watched the news this morning, I see that three inmates had escaped from an Ohio prison up no here. One of the inmates that escaped was in Lebanon Correctional at the same time as me, just a few cells down from mine. I remember when he arrived at Lebanon because he seemed to be the only thing that people were talking about at the time. This kid was an extremely high profile case, making national news and now he’s back on the national news again. Convicted for the murder of three high school classmates and sentenced to three consecutive life terms. At the day of his sentencing he took off his button up shirt, uncovering a white t-shirt with the word KILLER hand written on the front in bold black letters. Now one would assume from watching all the prison movies made in America that this kid would be feared by other inmates, perhaps gaining some kind of respect, not to be messed with. Well this didn’t seem to be the case with “old’ killer”, no in fact it had the opposite effect. This kid was walking around scared to death and he had every reason to be because it seemed like everybody wanted a piece of him. He had to be escorted everywhere he went, even when going to chow, it seemed like every guard on duty was watching him to make sure he wouldn’t get hurt and even that didn’t help. People told him was going to hurt by others when the time was right and it always seemed to be the time. Inmates would walk up behind him in line and start punching him, then walk away like nothing happened. On store day other inmates were taking his commissary bag on the way back to the unit, it got to the point where staff deemed him a major liability and quickly sent him to another institution. Many people on the news are vocalizing their concerns for why such a high security inmate would be in a medium security prison, well this is why. The man’s life and safety was at risk, so they placed him in another prison where there’s not so much violence. Do I know this for a fact? No, let’s just call it an educated guess.

9/14/14 – I had a video visit with my mother today, I always enjoy our conversations together, yet it’s very difficult to hear about things happening in the family. My grandmother recently fell again, splitting open the back of her head. My mom said that she lost a lot of blood because of the blood thinners she’s taking. Now she has staples in her head. My grandmother has gotten a lot weaker over the last few years I’ve been in prison, she loses her balance easily and now she’s walking with a cane everywhere she goes. My loved ones are growing older, everyday people get sick, people pass from this earth, I’ve already lost my Aunt Norma to cancer last year, now I worry every day that I’m going to lose my dear, sweet grandmother while stuck in a prison cell, unable to be there with her in her final days and hours, or attend another funeral. More importantly I’m afraid of losing another wonderful human being before I change my life around, before I have the opportunity to show them how much I care, show them how good I really am, how big my heart truly is when my life is free from substances, spreading unconditional love, joy and happiness throughout the lives of people that have been showing me love for so many years. My life has been nothing but lying, stealing, causing pain to people that doesn’t deserve it. No one has been able to trust me for as long as I can remember. The point in what I’m saying is that people don’t think of many good things when they think of me. I want my grandmother to think of a kind, loving man when she thinks of her grandson. I always thought to myself that I had plenty of time in life to right my wrongs and now life is quickly passing me by. To anyone reading this, please don’t let life pass you by, you never know when your time is up until it’s too late. Life is too precious to waste away.

9/18/14 – Today I struggle to get motivated. I feel like I’m being weighed down by a bag of bricks. Mental depression is very real and it bothers me to no end. I don’t understand why the changing of the season can have such a drastic and dramatic effect on my life. No matter how much I feel demotivated by this disorder, I refuse to give in to this debilitating disease; I refuse to allow this illness to take control of my life. I see now that I just have to prepare myself for this time of year, to be ready to work harder at maintaining a daily routine that’s goal oriented and productive, remaining vigilant and aware of my mental state, my environment and my reaction to the environment, mentally and physically as well.

9/19/14 – PRISON INFO. /ADVICE: Yesterday I had five emails and   blog entries to send out, all of which I spent a considerable amount of time   typing editing. Then yesterday afternoon I hooked up my tablet to the kiosk   to upload my emails and send them home, but the machine said that only one   email was sent out. I was distraught to see this, yet I told myself that it   was probably just an error on the machine. I had to wait until today to find   out whether or not the emails were sent out because the kiosk doesn’t update   outgoing emails until the following log on session. Already being my second   session of the day I waited until this morning to plug my tablet back in and   update my emails, frustrated to see that my other four emails were not sent   out and there’s no trace of them to be found, they’ve been erased from my   tablet and unrecognized on the kiosk. Four days of writing or my blog is   lost. Now I have to try to remember what I wrote over those days and write it   all over again over the next few days. This has never happened to me before   with Jpay, I certainly hope it never happens again.

by Steven Dybvad

Hello to all those who have been following my blogs.  I am forever grateful and wanted you to know that I have a new blog site.  Please click on the following link and then you can subscribe to receive email updates when my site is updated.  I will continue blogging on both sites but information will not be duplicated, therefore, both sites will have different information.

Thanks again for your amazing support.  I truly appreciate all your time in following and supporting me.


by Steven Dybvad


Kurt and I take our meditation hour very seriously each day. We both understand the importance of having clarity of the mind and spirit. Each morning after working out and showering, we both chose to read spiritual guidance books, while playing soft sounds of meditational music from our JP4 players, we go into our separate worlds, finding peace and this is a strict part of our daily routine, no matter what else is going on in the day. This is something I never could have been able to do with another celly. Even in prison I can find the many blessings in my life and be grateful.

by Steven Dybvad


For quite some time now I’ve stuck to a personal commitment to better health and it continues to pay off in many ways. I continue to stay away from any bread and all types of sugar, eating red meat only once or twice a week, supplementing with soy in the chow hall. I haven’t had a ramen noodle in almost two years and I always look into the nutritional value of everything else I eat. Doing so has affected my energy level, brain function and of course my body is responding in a way that blows my mind. I can run five to ten miles a day without stopping and even knock out a few hundred pushups when I’m finished. When I first started focusing on fitness I couldn’t run one lap around the track without getting so winded I thought I was going to die, but I kept on pushing myself to do a little more each day. Now here I am, almost a hundred pounds lighter, stronger then I’ve ever felt in my life. Just yesterday another inmate commented on my six pack abs, remembering that not too long ago I was overweight commending me on my hard work. I certainly don’t need encouragement from others to work hard, but I must admit that it feels great to be acknowledged by others.

by Steven Dybvad


My mentor Justin Paperny told me that my blog has been added to his web site as well. This is great news for me, it means more exposure to the public, broadening the possibilities for jobs and other aspects as well, like being able to help someone else in a position similar to mine, or another concerned parent with a child on the way to prison, just wanting to know what exactly her son is about to face and the steps he can take to create a promising future. Whatever the case may be I’m happy to be found in more places on the web. Justin asked me to send him a short 100 word biography of myself for his web site which is proving to be more difficult than I expected. I sat own today, trying to cut corners, only writing about the important parts of my journey in life and by the time I added it all up I was already breaking 500 words. I think I’m going to need some pointers on a short story.

by Steven Dybvad


I signed up for a money smart program almost an entire year ago, so long I almost forgot I signed up for such a thing. Now just today I saw that I’m in the list to attend the course tonight and every Monday night for the next twelve weeks. Not that I mind taking the class, because I’m happy to do it. It’s just that it seems like all these classes are coming on all at once, leaving me extremely busy which is good, but I’m just starting to feel a little overwhelmed. With running, strength training, yoga, spiritual readings, meditation, focus group, guitar practice and horticulture getting ready to start which is five days a week it makes it hard to manage time for other things like painting, soap carving, or card making for family birthdays and occasions, maintaining my blog, responding to emails and many other things. This really makes me think about how difficult it’s going to be in society when I have to add a full time job, paying bills, maintaining a house and quality time with family and children. At the end of the day I’m happy to be busy all the time, its better preparation for the real world.

by Steven Dybvad


Kurt told me that certain staff members here were attempting to shut down his business class that he’s teaching. Other staff members told him that some of the coordinators were trying to stop the business class because they didn’t want the inmates to educate their selves in a way that could improve the quality and success of their future. Then I heard the Sgt. that helped Kurt put this whole class together say she heard the program director say something along the same lines, so in order to be able to keep the business class going, we would all now have to stop calling it a class, or a program and we would only be able to refer to it as an activity. These are some of the silly trivial conflicts that some staff likes to create and focus on rather than the safety and security of this prison. It would be insane to think that maybe it would be better to try to help us by providing us with some of the tools necessary to living as a functional, contributing member of society after release.
I have no doubt that this activity Kurt is teaching is helping other inmates. Every day I see more people approach him to ask him with questions and compliment him on how well the class is going. Although I’m sure Kurt probably has mixed feelings about the level of exposure he now has with many other inmates that he otherwise never would have spoken to. We both try to live under the radar, but now he’s a dot on the map so to speak. I’m not saying this is bad, it’s probably just too much, too many, too fast in a world where one tries to stay hidden.

by Steven Dybvad


In all the conversations I’ve had with Kurt, finances and job stability has been one of them. I’ve often talked about my concerns for having a good paying job, one that will allow me to take care of my family and also enable me to save money for my family, for my retirement and even be able to leave something behind for my children after I pass away. These are all very big concerns of mine, things I think about every day. I’ll be 36 years old when I leave here, as a recovering drug addict and convicted felon, with no savings in a bank, no stocks or bonds, no 401K, only a stack of bills, debt, and child support. This can be very overwhelming for me at times. I want nothing more than to succeed in life, from here on out, but it’s not going to be an easy task. Fortunately I am taking steps to insure a greater opportunity for success upon release. By establishing good relationships with people like Justin Paperny, I’ve been afforded hopeful prospects. Justin has already made suggestions for employment; I also have a chance to work for a lumber company in California, for one year with free room and board. I absolutely intend on leaping at the chance to do so, but having my parole transferred to another state is next to impossible and I’ll be on parole for a mandatory time of five years after my release. So I often sit and talk about my worries with Kurt, him being my only friend in here, I find it easy and even necessary to confide such things in him, or they’ll just fester inside my heart unnecessarily weighing me down. Kurt has recently offered me a position in his company after release, if I continue to struggle with gainful employment when he gets out. This is just another added benefit of surrounding me with positive individuals that are motivated for success in all aspects of life.

by Steven Dybvad


After months and months of worrying about making it into the horticulture class, I can finally set my mind at ease. I made it in! The teacher finally walked me down to his office to look me up on his computer. Only twenty inmates make the list each year, my number is 17 in the list. No matter how far down, I still made the cut and I couldn’t be more excited. This was my one and only chance to get an education in horticulture while in prison. The class is twelve months long, making this my final opportunity. I can’t wait to get started, learning all that I can to prepare myself for the big test at the end of the year. This test will allow me a chance for a master certification, one that can be utilized in the real world. There are four separate certifications and four separate tests for each one, all of which are a necessary key for professionals in these fields in society. Whether it is a landscape designer, agricultural farming, or spraying chemicals and pesticides on plants and grass, etc., etc. No matter the case, I know I will give this class 110% of my efforts in exceeding in every aspect.

by Steven Dybvad


More continued harassment. Once again the guards are harassing my friend, Kurt and I fear that I may be next. This time it has to do with another inmate. Kurt was the third person to get called down to the Captains’ office for questioning about an inmate from our block who is currently in the hole for reasons that none of us are completely sure about. This inmate in the hole is simply someone that we speak to, much like many of the other inmates in this block, simply because we all live together. Seeing others every day is a necessary part of doing time in prison and yet we continue to be threatened by staff members in a failed attempt to extract information that we don’t have. Kurt was asked about some kite that someone wrote about the inmate in the hole. The guards and other higher authorities made Kurt write a few things on paper as a sample to compare to the handwriting on the kite. This of course isn’t the troubling issue; I would say it’s a proper standard investigating procedure. But what’s really troubling is what else they did. These guys threatened to throw him in the hole, raise his security level and ride him out another prison if he didn’t tell them what he knew, which is absolutely nothing. But that’s not all. They also threatened to take his visitations with his family away, they were in his face in an extremely threatening manner, and vocalizing that they would beat him up if he didn’t talk, coupled with various other threats. Of course Kurt doesn’t know anything about this situation because like me he doesn’t get involved in anything that has anything to do with anybody else other than himself, always focusing on his own life and future. We have done nothing to warrant such harassment by the very individuals that are paid to protect us. Two weeks ago this questioning first started with the celly of the man in the hole, and then they questioned another man that he talks to also, then Kurt. Of course like many other inmates in here, I have also spoken to this man on several occasions; we even used to play spades while waiting to be called to chow a while back. This is why I fear I’m next. Like everyone else I have no idea what this entire situation is about. All I know is that like Kurt, I don’t deserve any of the mistreatment by staff that is likely about to happen. They can throw me in the hole, or beat me up, or do anything else that they threatened to do to these other guys, but I’ll be damned if I don’t notify the public of know what’s going on. This is my only weapon of defense and if something happens to me soon, then at least you will all know what’s going on and I will have proof of the constant injustices that plague these prisons.

by Steven Dybvad


Shortly after my arrest, I continued using substances at the beginning of my stay in the county jail. Often people would have drugs on them in jail, either because the arresting officers weren’t thorough enough in their initial pat down or search after arrest, or the person just brought in a prepared package of drugs knowing that they were coming into jail. Regardless of how the drugs came into jail, I was using them during the first month or so of my stay in jail. Many people with long lengths of sobriety know the exact date of their sobriety and the last time they used. Unfortunately for me, I don’t know the exact date of my sobriety. When I came to jail, knowing I was about to do some time in prison, I had no plans of changing my life around, I saw my life as ruined already, pointless to change anything, ready to be an average inmate, drinking hooch, doing drugs, getting tattoos, joining a gang, etc., etc. Since I was introduced to Justin Paperny and the Michael Santos foundation, my views on life and my future all changed. Justin helped me to understand that I still had a great opportunity to change my life around and be a successful man, father, family member and a contributing, respected member of society. I wanted everything that Justin was drawing a beautiful picture of for me and I was willing to do whatever it took to get it. So I quit looking for drugs, I decided not to get tattoos or join any gangs once I came to prison, I created this blog with the help of my parents and now I even have my first book in the works. I was arrested on March 25th, 2011, that’s more than three years and three months ago. So now I can safely say that I have three years of good sobriety. That’s the longest length of time that I’ve been sober for since I was fourteen years old. I feel great about my sobriety, my mind becomes clearer with every day that passes and the values, morals and ethics that my parents worked so hard to burn in my brain strengthen with each day and each test I continue to pass in prison. I have no doubts that God saved my life by guiding me to prison, thus being introduced to Justin Paperny and Michael Santos as a result of my prison sentence. Today I finally think about my future and my family instead of where I am going to get my next fix.

by Steven Dybvad


This year the Red Cross volunteers started a vegetable garden for a local food pantry. They planted tomato plants, pepper plants, lettuce, squash, cucumbers and a few other things. The garden is off to the side of our walkway in the compound. Every meal I have to walk by this garden, at least three times a day and every day on my way back from chow I slow down so that I can stare at the plants, watching how much they’ve grown since the last time I looked, fantasizing about my own garden at home. Plants and gardening has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was a little boy, following my grandma around her garden in the backyard, it was so peaceful. I’ve always been able to find peace in the garden, it’s a great form of therapy for me, a way to clear my head, stopping time and just being able to enjoy life in the moment. I only continue to hope and pray that I make the list this year for horticulture class. For this is my last and only chance to take advantage of such a rare opportunity. When else does someone have the chance to focus their time and energy on such a thing as this in the real world, where the busy schedule and fast pace of life, trying to support family and children takes over all other things, making it extremely difficult to accomplish an aspiration such as this?….

Copyright 2020 The Michael G. Santos Foundation