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Feel free to drop my friend a note of encouragement. Lord knows he could use it.

Matthew Ney,  MDOC #309368 

Gus Harrison Regional Facility

2727 East Beecher St.
Adrian, MI 49221

Hello my brother Matt,

What’s shakin’ bacon? Trusting this finds you doing relatively OK…considering your present circumstances. Thank God most will never experience how lightning crashes when the bars are slammed shut. You’ve been on my heart all day. Frankly, I tried to shake it, but there’s no sleep before writing you.

In your last communique’ you wrote of a plan to be some kind of counselor. Given the current state of the economy, a tight job market and a felony on your record, I think that’s a very doable goal. Are you pursuing your dream to be a counselor? You’d best be Matthew… because you’ll be rolling in the deep of freedom in less than 4 short years. Pay Attention my brother.


As Mr. Mackey on South Park would say; “Mmmkay?” The time will start spinning like an odometer. Did you think the Hurls had forgotten you? O’ no my friend. You remain in my heart and prayer life. In a very short period of time, we will be playing guitars and jamming like kids in a garage band. Stay ticket free. Keep working. Don’t give up. Punking out is not an option. Establish and begin to cultivate ties to the support network you’ll need to make it…mmmkay?

Get ready for this one. You will need AT LEAST two years of adjustment. If the Hurls needed it, (and I’m not all there yet), you will surely need it because you’re way more screwed up than me. Burn! Can I get an Amen? Seriously. Redeem the time. Beware of the enemy and his low-life, scumbag schemes to throw you off your square. The fall is about to hit. Traditionally that’s tough for you because it’s harder to play guitar outside. You always taught me to do the time and don’t let the time do you…mmmkay?

Speaking of guitars, hehe…I was just blessed with Taylor’s flagship model #816ce.

I’ll never have to buy another guitar. This thing is such a blessing.

Tomorrow my church is having a two-hour, off the hook worship service and the Hurls is playing with the team. I wish you could be there at the Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale with me.

Renaissance Vineyard Church

You’d be so grateful & proud brother. The seeds you planted are coming to fruition as I “get” to play with the team…when all I really deserve is to be locked up in a Level IV joint with the criminally insane. My eyes just filled with tears at the radical grace of it all Matt. I pray that grace remains present in your life…right now…TODAY. Those blessed with the freedom to be at this worship service, who may blow it off…when you would almost kill to be there…is a sad testimony. There’s a great life beyond the walls of the Gus Harrison Rathole they call a prison. A lot of folks don’t get it-buying the lie that you’re in there living the life of Riley, eating like a King while watching 678 channels on Cable TV. It’s all ignorance. I just calmly try to shed some truth on the lies perpetuated by media heads who like talking out of their butts.

Today, life is very good. I was even in a relationship for a hot minute but already broke it off because things did not work out. I need to remain focused like a laser. She’s moved on and I wish her the best. Guys like you and I are blessed by virtue of our failure to take things seriously…while retaining a healthy sense of humor. That’s the blessing of being an incarcerated or free alcoholic. Father can provide the grace to open the eyes of our heart in any place, provided we are willing-our sordid lives depend on it.

That shot brings back some not-so-fond memories of waiting for an hour like a recalcitrant child for a CO with an attitude to open the door of a dog cage we hated…but found solace in. Remember the holiday season when the guards let us place a Christmas Tree on top of the cover over the grey-haired CO? We put that thing up on a midnight shift while everyone was sleeping and topped it off with a crucifix made from Elmer’s glue & toothpicks. We spent hours on that thing, using hundreds of toothpicks to make a 1′ high cross.  When the fella’s broke for chow in the AM, most of them smiled at seeing their first Christmas Tree in years. A few were none to pleased with the decorated green symbol of hope & redemption. Everyday, some sorry bastard would throw something from the upper galleries to knock the cross off the top of the tree. Every night Officer “Red” would break  us from our cells and provide a step ladder to put the crucifix back on the top of the tree. This drill was repeated over and over. The times I’d want to capitulate and give up was always met with a stern look from you. You’d say; “C’mon Hurley! Red is giving us a rare shot of grace to shine some light in this zoo. We can’t let her down. We can’t let our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ down! Don’t be a wuss!”. Hahaha…so we’d climb up over the officer’s desk and prop up that cross, just like Jesus propped us up throughout our stay in Cellblock #1-North. There are times of recalling that period with great fondness.

So I just contradicted myself. They were the best and the worst of times. I’ll never forget watching you grit your face with a smile of grim determination as you marched like a Mario Brothers Man with ladder in hand to the CO’s desk to put the Cross back up on the tree. Being smaller, you always climbed up and down the ladder while I held it. CO Red got a big kick out of watching us. It was the highlight of her shift.  They never did break the Cross. It’s an unbreakable thing. You taught me the fine arts & craft of building stuff with toothpicks. We’d take all those brittle little sticks, bind them together with glue…let em’ dry…and then add more. It’s a great metaphor for surviving the hell of being locked up. It’s a valid metaphor for the Body of Christ. Alone, we are weak & vulnerable. Together, we stand. Together, we stood and withstood the onslaught of the enemy. The majority of the men respected our chutzpah. You showed me how to use that as an opportunity to witness. More than a dozen guys were led to the chapel to receive Christ as their Savior by virtue of a toothpick Crucifix. Hahaha. It was great! That gave us life and purpose. Your eyes always welled with tears when a brother would throw in the towel and cry out to God. Those that didn’t knew not to even think of messing with us. Good Times-Pure Michigan. Know this my friend…that time spent with you on the mission fields of prison yards & Cell-blocks has everything to do with how the Hurls is now Rocking In the Free World.

I’m throwing in all the links just in case you can figure out how to access them in the dayroom kiosk at the Gus. You always had a knack for maintaining a smile while slipping one by the guards…like that jerk Miller. Tell me the MDOC has fired that sadist…please.

Anyhoo, transition is no picnic my friend, but compared to how you exist in that place, my problems are of the “gold-plated” variety. I try to remember that my brother. I’ll never forget you inviting me join CSC & The Sunshine Band. Hahahaha. What a great time we had finding real freedom surrounded by gun towers, concertina wire, walls and some real nasty CO’s. There were many times of transcending the horror of oppressive constraints as we jammed like whirling dervishes on the prison yard surrounded by psychos of all stripes. Father protected us 100% of the time. Perhaps that explains why it seems so silly for free singers and musicians to cop an attitude. Hahaha…actually I copped one a couple weeks back but was immediately checked in my spirit to chilleth.

OK, I know you can see this…it’s worth another JPay Stamp to share it with you. Check out this most recent shot taken at a high school reunion last Saturday. It was a sober blast. That’s my favorite teacher (John Sterritt) who’s now 70ish.

Listen Matt. I only share all this stuff to encourage, uplift and edify you. Mmmkay? Be of good cheer. He that hath begun a good work in you, shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. You can take that truth to the Commissary of life and get all that you need on any day of the week. For real. Don’t worry about the Alpo grade swill your eating now. Before you know it, you’ll be over at my crib eating a big fat juicy steak–my treat cuz’ you’ll initially be broke. That remains my reality, but all needs are met and for that…gratitude trumps whining…most of the time.  I’m here for you my brother, and I’ll be here when you get out. Many have been here for my old, Irish butt. That’s the way grace rolls. We can’t keep it unless it’s given away…freely…and with joy.

Give my best to the boys. Say hi to Larry for me. Tell Randy I forgive his laziness for not writing back. You still working in the Eyeglass Factory? Still chairing the AA Meeting? When you chose to do that, my chest swelled with a healthy pride. Those were some of the best meetings of my life. The time inside does not have to be wasted.  Still leading worship in the chapel on Tuesday & Sunday? I always think of you brothers every Tuesday Night around 6:30PM. We use to line up at the gate like dogs getting out of a kennel so we could get our praise on. How’s that going? Please share.

Dig this. You’re a smart dude with enough humility to take ownership and a searching, fearless moral inventory. That always impressed me about you. Unlike many of our…ahem…bunkies, you never copped a victim mentality. That will serve you well upon your release brother because the cold, hard truth is that no one owes us squat. I’ll not sugar-coat it for you Mat, transition as a “returning citizen” is not for punks. Believe me brother, I’ve had my moments-hospitalized four times; wreckage of the past that slaps on a monthly basis as restitution and amends are made; got hit with a compulsion to use so strong it blew the hair off my bald head; blowback from family members who seem the least willing to forgive, etc…blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I know…call the Wambulance. But guess what? If folks discern we’re not on the make and trying to “get over”, a lot of them will bend over backwards to offer a hand-up…in lieu of a hand-out. Staying involved in the Prison Creative Arts Project has been instrumental. I’ll bring you to A2 upon your release and introduce you to my young posse’ of commandos. They’re great kids. As long as you don’t pick up, everything will work out Matthew. God has mad love for you. I witnessed it first hand.

The Lie Is Dead…We Do Recover. The long talks we had still resonate through my soul bro. I started a Blog. You probably
don’t even know what the hell that is. LOL That’s OK today, you’ll get caught up to speed in no time at all. Anyway, a Blog is where you have an online account and write anything you want. I try to keep it real Mat. The litmus test for my blogging is threefold;

WILL IT EMBARRASS MY SONS? (So far…no. Their feedback is encouraging and they are proud of Dad)
WILL IT SOMEHOW HONOR GOD AND REFLECT HIS GRACE? (without coming off pious or religious)
IS IT REAL & GENUINE? (always)

Many good friends provide tips, feedback and constructive feedback. I met an editor of the Oakland Press at a place I ought not reveal. She asked me to submit something for her to publish. Her response came today;

Well, this is impressive, Tim, but not newspaper writing. You are way beyond us. The closest to what we do is a guest column, and even that doesn’t seem quite like what you do. It’s too personal. Methinks you’re not cut out for the type of hack writing we do. But do keep up the blog, it’s special

That’s how life is. Some doors open…some doors close.

Her “no” was actually a yes.
You feel me on that tip?
His ways are not our ways.
Hang in there big guy.

Fraternally Yours,

Brother Tim

One last song for you Matthew. Cling to the Hem of His Garment like never before and I promise to do the same my brother. You are not forgotten. You are precious in His sight and loved by many. Shoulda’ started with this one, I’m still learning…we all are. Play this one for the fella’s in the chapel. Tell em’ it’s from the Hurls with mad props & encouragement.

 Faithful One so unchanging 
Ageless One You’re my rock of peace 
Lord of all I depend on You 
I call out to You, again and again 
I call out to You, again and again 

You are my rock in times of trouble 
You lift me up when I fall down 
All through the storm 
Your love is the anchor 
My hope is in You alone


This letter did not make it past the MDOC Mail Room censors. My guess is that they may have taken offense to referring to CO Miller as a sadist. The fact that he conducts himself while making rounds in an unprofessional & capricious manner was no reason to stoop to his level of banal discourse. Perhaps his lover in the mail-room became jealous of their S & M secret being exposed, so he rejected it. 

One can only speculate. Anyway, after deleting the allegedly offensive line, this did make it to Matt.



  1. Rick says:

    Excellent! Matt has to be overjoyed (as best he can be while still locked up) to have a brother on the ‘outside’ who is willing and able to help with the transition back into the free world.

    “Not newspaper writing”? Of course it isn’t, unless the Oakland Press is looking for a feature story. But WTF, that doesn’t mean that you have to compromise or ‘write down’ to their level. You could still keep the blog going (you better!) AND do ‘hack writing’ to fit their audience without selling your writing soul to the editor-devil.

    A personal blog and a newspaper reporter are not the same gig, dig? I think your writing scared her! She probably looked into the future and saw you and her going mano to mano over some story you submitted where she wants to tame it down and you fire back with Irish pride telling her ‘No way!’

    Chew on the following quote, Tim.
    If I’d written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people – including me – would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.
    Hunter S. Thompson

    • Tim Hurley says:

      Hahaha…HST, despite his demons, was a most excellent writer.In the end, he wound up offing himself. What a waste. My editor friend and I are pretty tight. She’s classy enough to just lay out reality. It was actually a compliment, so no offense was taken. If you get a little free time, drop Matt a line. A letter in prison from the Free World is like a ray of sunshine blasting through the tedious, grey fog of monotony. Thanks.

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