"the mightiest meditations of mankind are cancelled by merely one opening leaf" ~ e.e. cummings
1969 1975 1990 1999 Jon in 2019
1969 1975 1990 1999 2019
A site dedicated to supporting Jonathan Andreas during his incarceration.
Maintained by his family and friends.
The latest from Jon:

5 March 2020 • Cool Thursday evening

Fell off my upper bunk in my sleep this past weekend. Landed on my head and shoulder on the concrete floor. Apparently I walked to the medical clinic and returned an hour later, but I have no memory of any of it—or of going to breakfast later that morning. I had trouble concentrating and was very tired for a few days but am better now.

* * * *

7 January 2020 • Warm Tuesday morning

2019 was a year of extremes. The highs included being able to play a cello all year, the prelimary exams for my PhD in April—which were successful—and caroling in a men's quartet over three days around Christmas in the Visiting Room. The low—very low—was stretched out over six or more months. I have found myself increasingly sensitive to the noise all around me and am having difficulty concentrating on my studies. The radios, the shouting (I am now against all professional sports), the blaring loudspeakers: am I becoming a grumpy old man? I have several years of this left and seriously worry about my sanity.

Even so, there are blessings. Two drug-users in my immediate bunk area have paroled (so much for "rehabilitation") so things are a little less chaotic. I had a skin cancer spot removed from my left cheek in December; my new nickname is "Scarface" (just kidding). I also received a wall full of Christmas cards and an armload of Ursula K. Le Guin books as presents—thanks to so many of you! And 2020 has begun with a barrel of love: a visit from my brother, three of his daughters, and my mom. I am a proud and thankful uncle! http://www.ecodreamer.net/pictures32.html


* * * *

Cool & foggy Tuesday morning • 15 October 2019

I was awakened this morning by a loud voice: "A nigga has t'get a rock to go after a nigga in a wheelchair!" Apparently my neighbor two bunks down, a young black man in a wheelchair (the second "nigga" above), had upset a big white guy (the first "nigga" above), and the latter was chasing him with a rock in hand. The wheelchair-bound guy was loudly proclaiming the fact that he was so intimidating that the big white guy needed a weapon to face him. It turns out the wheelchair guy had accused the other of sucking someone's dick.

Another neighbor, across the walkway from me, just a few feet away, is a tweaker, a meth-head. I've heard of such people; now I've witnessed it up close and personal. A middle-aged white guy with a pockmarked face, he's been up for three days straight now, picking at his face or ears or neck or back, rocking back and forth barefoot on the cement floor, staring into his empty locker, and talking to himself for hours and hours and hours on end. The guards know; they do nothing.

This is my new neighborhood. I recently moved from my previous spot because of the drugs, alcohol, profanity, and noise. Especially the noise. Where I am now is quieter—relatively speaking.

* * * *

5 September 2019 • Hot and humid Thursday morning

The months tick by. So much to say. So little to say. I'm now 53 and am reading through the stack of birthday-present-books I received (thank you!). Some literary highlights I've enjoyed this summer include:

- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (a beautiful story of love and solitude)
- The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr (wow! eye-opening spirituality!)
- Plato's Revenge by William Ophuls (a brilliant new political philosophy in light of our ecological crisis)
- Walking on Water by Derrick Jensen (the best book on teaching I've ever read)

How come no one ever told me that writing a doctoral dissertation was so difficult? (just kidding) The hardest part for me is trying to organize years of reading, research, notes, ideas, articles, and anecdotes into a logical line of argument. It's like trying to stuff a cat into a bag! It is also, I must say, the most academically invigorating and fun thing I've ever done!

In other news, I've formed a men's vocal quartet in preparation for Christmas. All four of us have professional musical experience and the synergy is magical. This is the most I've enjoyed singing since college. We plan to perform in the Visiting Room in December.

Finally, all of my research on the state of our planet ecologically—and the related humanitarian crises—point to one, not so comfortable, solution. We need to downsize in every possible way. The Bible (and many other religious traditions) points to the same thing: live humbly on the land and build a strong, local community (including both humans and non-humans). Grow fond of the place where you live, support the local economy, live "off the grid" as much as possible, and revive the traditional crafts and technologies that do no harm. Easier said than done in today's high-tech, globalized world, eh?

* * * *

27 May 2019 • Sunny Monday noon (Memorial Day)

I write while sitting outside. Puffy white clouds dot the sky. Finches, sparrows, and blackbirds are singing. My friend Joe is playing sax with a band under the eaves. A group of men are playing softball. My bunkie Peter sits across the table writing his grown son. So much good—even here. One of my friends once called it "flowers in hell."

Big news: Exactly one month ago today I passed my doctoral pre-thesis exams and am now ABD (all but dissertation). As I've worked hard to make these cloistered years both healing and productive, the Institute for Christian Studies has graciously reached out to help me fulfill a lifelong dream. I am now busy writing my dissertation on education and re-indigenization.

A fly just landed on my writing hand. My whole life I've had the reflex of killing them whenever they're within range. But lately I've discovered the joy of just letting them be. They are amazing little creatures! They fastidiously clean their wings with their back legs. And since they can't move their eyes and have no neck, they have to move their whole body to look around—try it sometime. And when you actually let them walk around on you, it tickles! It'll make you laugh!

Book recommendation—hot off the press: Romans Disarmed by Sylvia C. Keesmaat and Brian J. Walsh. If you think, as I did, that the biblical book of Romans is a long, dry theological tract, think again. It is a subversive, anti-imperial, radically inclusive message that is fully relevant in the age of Trumpism and the American Empire. Sylvia and Brian do an excellent job of making it come alive!

May you have honey in your heart! (a Mayan blessing)

* * * *

6 March 2019 • Rainy Wednesday morning

It's pouring outside! I love the rain—when the trees are happy, I'm happy.

The author Richard Rohr has become a favored spiritual mentor. A friend gave me his book Breathing Under Water and in it he writes, "No one consciously does evil. The very fact that anyone can do stupid, cruel, or destructive things shows they are at that moment unconscious and unaware." This certainly describes me. I actually thought, while committing my crimes, that I was doing something good. How upside down! How unaware! Rohr's solution is God's unconditional love which is embodied by those who love us back to awareness. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such healing and awakening embraces. I just wish everyone in here could experience that.

One of the healing embraces comes from my "bunkie," Peter Duarte. Turning 80 next month, I met Peter 14 years ago at another prison where we were "cellies" for about a year. I've never met a man who prays more hours per day. What a joy to have his gentle and fatherly companionship as we share our tiny space together. Please remember him in your prayers.

* * * *

7 November 2018 • A bright, clement Wednesday afternoon

I've been feeling very thankful lately, and not just because Thanksgiving is around the corner.

I am thankful for a mother who continues to sacrifice herself for me, and who has become a cherished friend as we share similar social, political, and religious ideas—and a deep love for classical music.

I am also thankful for my brother and sister-in-law's unconditional love and willingness to hold me (even from a distance) through life's highs and lows.

...also for the opportunity to take all these college classes which are not only a productive use of time but a chance to earn early release.

...also for the donation of a cello to the chapel here, so I am back playing again!

...also for my very rewarding job as a librarian—I love books and enjoy the challenge of matching the right person to the right book. I continue to discover great authors; for example, if you haven't tried Michael D. O'Brien, you should, especially if you're a Christian. His novels are spectacular and inspiring! I've read The Fool of New York City (a shorter novel) and Island of the World (very long), both amazing! Both highly recommended!

...also for the Catholic community here of which I've been a part these past eight years. My faith journey over the past sixteen years has been quite the adventure, but the Catholic liturgy and various chaplains and volunteers always made me feel welcomed and valued. The eight other musicians that I lead, in particular, have become like brothers. Last week we sang an a capella choral piece (by John Tavener) that was heavenly. I am so thankful for those kinds of musical experiences! Say a prayer for Phil, Gerald, Mike, Russell, Aaron, Brian, Peter, and Joe—criminals all—yet loved by God.

* * * *

4 August 2018 • HOT Saturday afternoon

One manzanita tree,
trunk smooth and gnarled,
blooms tiny pale pink flowers.
His sister,
down past the palm,
blooms bright fuchsia!
A warm wind from the southwest
carries the petals
to where they swirl together
in a depression
in the sidewalk
forming a mandala
of just two colors.
Who would've thought
that pink and fuschsia
look so good together?

* * * *

18 July 2018 • Rainy Wednesday morning

O blessed rain! After a few weeks of record-breaking heat—up to 119 degrees outside and 105 inside— being woken up by thunder and the smell of rain is such a relief! It brings back fond memories of Iowa. Here in Southern California we very rarely get thunder and lightning and never get rain in the summer. I imagine many small children of all skin tones and economic castes ran into their parents' bedrooms this morning after hearing their first thunder.

Every morning I queue up with hundreds of other men in one of four lines to receive my antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication. Some men go three times a day for various pills. Each time each person is issued two small plastic cups, one for water, one to hold the pill(s). Over the years I've watched countless large plastic garbage bags fill with plastic cups. Multiply this by four yards at this prison and 33 prisons throughout the state and that's a LOT of plastic waste. For about seven years now I've been reusing the cups—bringing them back and forth from my bunk to the pill line. I've quietly tried to encourage others to do the same. They laugh. As far as I know, I'm the only one. I wrote a note of suggestion to the medical administration—"Please have the people dispensing pills encourage reusing the cups"—and they replied with a form letter: "We only process medical emergencies." This morning a new employee was at my window. I handed him my little cup so he could put the pill in it and said with a smile, "I'm a recycler." He gave me a funny look and threw away the perfectly good, clean cup that I've been using for over a year.

My birthday this past Monday was a delight. My mom visited me the day before, my brother's family sang to me over the phone, and I've received several cards and letters and an armload of books! I am so thankful. Even so, this is my first birthday without my dad, and I missing calling him and hearing him say, "Happy Birthday, son."

* * * *

27 May 2018 • Bright Sunday afternoon

I have been tired as of late. Emotionally tired. Weary of a world that doesn't know how to make peace with itself. Exasperated by a prison system that seems stuck on seeing me as a "body" to be "housed" instead of a person to be healed. And drained by the loud and rude youngsters getting on my old-man nerves.

And then someone comes to visit—and the world is bright again. Today, someone I haven't seen in almost 16 years, one of my closest friends from back then, Tim Fenderson, came to bring me love and forgiveness. He told me of his beautiful wife and—now grown—children, and I poured out my heart to him. He has a few more gray hairs and I have much thinner hair, but we both remain steadfast in our concern for normative education. Once again, love conquers sin.

Tim & Jon

On another note, have you seen the new production of "Little Women" on PBS? It's fantastic! (All except the music—not sure about that.) It's got me reading the book. What a wonderful tale! Perhaps I was born in the wrong century (with a tip of the hat to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte). If I could be one of the March sisters, I think I should be Jo. Tonight, as I go for my evening walk, I think I'll listen to my CD of Chopin's (19th century) Nocturnes.

* * * *

7 January 2018 • Sunny & warm Sunday afternoon

I would like to recommend to you the Ten Best Books (of the 97) I read in 2017, in no particular order. I'll begin with fiction:

Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief is a literary gem! It is the story of a young foster girl in Nazi Germany and is written with a unique and mesmerizing style. Don't miss it! Top Ten of all time!

Amor Towles's A Gentleman in Moscow, another work of historical fiction, is about a former aristocrat confined to a hotel after the Russian Revolution. Towles's writing is remarkable; he is a first-rate wordsmith!

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, is the biblical story of Jacob and his 12 sons told from the point of view of the oft-forgotten daughter, Dinah. A deeply moving piece of feminine literature.

Walk Me Home, by Catherine Ryan Hyde, is an uplifting story of two sisters who run away from an abusive home and end up under the wing of a tough and loving old Native American woman on a reservation.

John Michael Greer's The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth is a fun modern fantasy that turns H.P. Lovecraft's horrible creatures into allies in a fight against the soul-deadening blandness of modernism (with a tip of the hat to C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength).

Mischling, by Affinity Konar. Whoa. Heavy. Historical fiction. An inside look at the part of Auschwitz where the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on twin children. Even so, it is beautifully written.

Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is a gripping and wonderful story of raising a transgender child. In a family of five boys, the youngest wants to be a girl. This is real-life modern-day family drama—with all its ups and downs—at its best!

As for nonfiction, I have two:

The Maiden King, by Robert Bly & Marion Woodman, is a study on modern masculinity & femininity using a traditional fairy tale as the conversation piece.

Death of the Liberal Class, by Chris Hedges, is a deeply insightful analysis of the forces that are driving The American Experiment into the ground.

And, finally, a children's book that I shared over the phone with my niece (she recommended it and wanted to reread it with me):

Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird (for mid- to upper elementary-age kids) is a brilliant first-person look at the world through the eyes of a child with Asperger's Syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism). Everyone—children & adults alike—should read this book!

* * * *

1 January 2018 • Cool Monday morning

After much feedback, discussion, and deliberation, I've decided to reopen this website. I took it down because I had received word that its existence was a source of continuing pain for those I've hurt in the past. Although I remain committed to healing those hurts in any way I can, I no longer believe the absence of this website lends itself to that healing. Perhaps it's just the opposite. The intention herein is to document—and, at times, even celebrate—one man's journey from brokenness toward wholeness through the grace of Spirit and community. It is also a voice for reform: before prison, I assumed the federal and state justice and corrections systems were competent enough to turn bad guys into good guys. After 15 years in prison, I can testify to the utter failure and criminal wastefulness of this multibillion-dollar industry. As a taxpaying citizen, I am furious at the lack of fiscal and humanitarian responsibility. Prison really is "graduate school" for criminals to learn how to be more criminal. And the authorities look the other way and collect their fat paychecks. It's sick. The only good that happens is when a few of us band together—with much help from the outside!—to go against the flow...and hope to stay under the radar for fear of reprisal. It's an upside-down and backward world, but God has always worked miracles in the darkest places.

So, after leaving tears at the manger, I am standing up, dusting myself off, joining arms with you, my "cloud of witnesses," and attempting to fight the good fight—in the name of peace, healing, forgiveness. May the cracks in our work always be places for the light to shine through. May 2018 be a year of coming together and lifting each other up.



[Editor's note: I had the pleasure of hearing Jon sing and play his guitar on Christmas Day 2017]

Visit the archived messages of Jon from 2011 - 2016