Last month, I started getting messages on a phone number I rarely used. Same female voice, same words. It sounded like “f— you.” Could also have been “thank you” or “press 2.” All through the Christmas season, even though my outgoing message explained who I was (and wasn’t), they kept calling. The ringer on this phone, which was connected to my cell phone company and which I used only to make long distance calls, wasn’t loud enough to hear if I wasn’t in the same room. The reception was terrible out here in the woods, but I was stuck on a two-year plan that the company wouldn’t let me out of. Anyway, I kept getting those messages. Finally one day, I answered it in time to hear “This is the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. An Inmate is trying to reach you. Press 1 if you will accept the call.”
I didn’t know anybody in prison, didn’t even know where that particular prison was. If I could reach a human, I could explain that they had the wrong number. As I hesitated, the computer hung up on me. The next day, I got a different recording that asked me to punch in my authorization number, which I guess I would have had if I knew somebody inside. When I didn’t respond properly, the computer hung up again.
Another series of F.U. messages followed over the next week until on Christmas Eve I got a message with a name, Joshua D., and an 866 number. I wrote it down. They’d been preaching at church about mercy. Should I call Joshua to wish him a merry Christmas and tell him he’s calling the wrong number?
I didn’t call. The phone stopped ringing. No more F.U. messages. But I couldn’t throw away the note with Joshua’s number. I pictured a young guy in prison clothes, eyes filled with sadness and anger, nobody to talk to at Christmas. All I really knew about prisons was what I saw on the screen. Orange is the New Black. Chicago. That movie about the nun who opposed capital punishment. In those pictures, the criminals were always good people who got into trouble. Even the murderers and drug dealers loved their mothers and sisters, right?
I kept thinking about Joshua, wondering if he was waiting anxiously for a call from whoever I was supposed to be. I looked up Coffee Creek. It’s near Wilsonville, Oregon. Did you know you can Google prisoners online and get their vital statistics, charges and status? You can. After much clicking, I found a Joshua D., age 32. He was charged with possession of controlled substances. He had a shaved head and bags under his eyes. Status: released.
So, that’s that. If this had gone on longer, I might have called. The reporter in me would be too curious to let it go. But now we’ll never talk.
My two-year contract for the lousy landline finally ran out. Last week I disconnected that phone and that number. But I keep thinking I hear it ring. I still want to know if she was really saying “f— you.”
2 thoughts on “Who’s Calling Me from Prison?”
Sue I can’t explain all of the ‘why’ (maybe part of it) but I can tell you with total confidence that inmates write phone numbers down next to the pay phone(s) in their dorms/tanks/cells. They don’t have always have paper to write on. When an offender gets bored they call the # just to see what happens. I’ve had loved ones incarcerated. It was just lovely the day my step-son wrote my phone # on the wall of a very large county jail and from that day on I had the occasional phone call, always collect, from a strange man in jail asking me if I’d call his girlfriend for him (ummm, no).
As to why YOUR phone number, that is a mystery you will likely not know this side of heaven. I am guessing a typo (bear in mind whoever wrote the # down may have a learning disability and inverted phone numbers, or wrote ‘8’ when they should have written ‘3’, something like that.)
Just pray for Joshua until they day comes you no longer are thinking of him, mainly because someone needs to pray for this person, and –by a series of fluke events– he was quite briefly loosely tied to your phone #.
I have a testimony loosely tied to this scenario. I began to minister to a young woman and over time she gave me her cell #. In fact, she stood over my phone and watched me key in her phone # and said, yes that is right. That same night I texted her a prayer to pray, short and sweet, to help calm her nerves. The person responded and said, “You have the wrong number but I am having a horrible evening crying and alone and I really needed that prayer.” True story.
Imagine my shock and joy! The next time I saw her, I told the young woman I was ministering to who also was so happy to hear it. Funny how God uses stuff like that.
Don’t let Joshua take up more mental real estate than he is due. Send up a prayer when you think of him and move on to the next thing.
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Thank you for your comment and your beautiful story. I’m not worrying about Joshua. I know he was trying to reach someone who had this number before me. I never get the number out to anyone, just used it for outgoing calls. But your comment inspires me to think and pray about the people in prison.