MY MENTOR, MY FRIEND by Joshua King
In the summer of 2004, I arrived at the Idaho Correctional Center. The prison was new to me and a lot more relaxed than I was accustomed to. I had just come from the Idaho Maximum Security Institution, a much more violent and stressful prison to live in.
I was still adjusting to prison life; it didn't make sense to me.
I struggled with the shallowness, the violence, and the disingenuous nature of prison life. I was wandering, adrift not living just surviving with no purpose. Shortly after my arrival, I was offered a job in maintenance and there I met Bob Jones.
Bob was an older guy, compared to me at least, and I didn't know much about him he was very kind and I noticed that everyone seemed to know him, it was evident that he was very well respected and revered. Bob commanded so much respect that I was a little intimidated. I watched from the fringes and did my job. I would later find out that Bob had a fixed life sentence for what authorities claimed was a case of murder for hire. Bob eventually told me that it was simply a burglary gone bad. "Prosecutors can make their whole career on a case like mine," Bob told me. "Especially if they sensationalize it."
Shortly after starting my job, I was moved from the general population to a worker unit called G-H-I. My new cell was one door away from Bob's and between working with Bob and living so close to him I began to get to know him better. I was a young man with a poor self-image in prison and I was desperately trying to fit in somewhere. I naturally gravitated toward others close to my age who were not the best influences. One day Bob called me to the table where he performed, what seemed to be unending tasks, that I later found out were mostly on behalf and for the benefit of others.
"What are you doing hanging out with those idiots?" Bob asked. He gestured toward the rest of the dayroom, which is a common area where prisoners spend most of their time.
I said, "I don't know... where should I be hanging out?"
"Well.." Bob answered. "I imagine that the world would be better served if you hung around with people that helped you develop your God-given gifts and abilities, but if you want to go down in flames with those dummies then keep doing what you're doing and you'll get there quick."
"Those guys are my friends," I said.
"If those guys don't have their own best interest at heart, what kind of consideration do you think they're giving to your best interests," Bob answered.
"I can see by the look on your face that you're following what I'm saying." He said. I walked away, a little angry, but Bob accomplished what I would later learn was his main aim in these kinds of situations provoking thought.
As time went by I started to gravitate towards Bob and he eventually inspired me with the idea that the noblest endeavor we can pursue in life is serving others, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, and doing so with the highest sense of moral and ethical standards. Bob eventually
talked me into taking a paralegal course.
We had a night that we would meet to discuss how we could best help our fellow prisoners. Bob was known for being a prison litigator, but he practiced a great deal of restraint and always used litigation as a last resort. Bob encouraged me to always seek alternatives to legal action first and even then, always considering how that action may affect all prisoners.
Bob left me with great life lessons one was about time management. One day I asked him why he was always busy with something. Bob said "Well, in life when you lose something you can always get it back, you can get your wife back, your house back, your job, your car, your money, but you can't get time back which makes it your most precious asset. If you squander your time, you'll regret it."
Another time, I was getting upset that someone had not done something that they had promised they would do. I was obviously upset, and Bob called me over to his table where he was always working. "What's the problem?" Bob asked. "This guy promised me he was going to do this for me, and he just didn't do it, he didn't forget, he could do it, he just didn't do it!" Bob took his glasses off and looked at me. He said, "This is your fault." I was beside myself angry. "How is my fault?" "With the caliber of person that you're dealing with, you're telling me that you're shocked he didn't come through for you?" Bob asked. "Yeah!" I exclaimed.
"Well, you shouldn't be," Bob said.
"You're mad because your expectations exceeded his ability to perform, so now who's fault is it?"
As time went on, I began to come into my own. I began to be known for someone who helped others, I read books that Bob suggested as well as case law and other things, Bob would take me to meetings with him and introduce me as a good friend. It made me proud. When you were in a room speaking with Bob, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. He would ask me what I thought about important legal matters and what I would do if it were my decision.
At a meeting with Bob and a friend of ours named Phil, Bob said to my surprise that he fully intended for me to take his place. I most certainly fell short in filling Bob's shoes, no one could ever do that. My mentor and friend Bob Jones left an indelible mark upon me and inspired me more than anyone in the last twenty years of my life.
In late August 2015, Bob suddenly got sick. He died on September 11th with his family present. He was seventy-two years old.
There is not one person in the Idaho prison system that did more to help more people than Bob Jones.
Bob was posthumously awarded the Dave Judy Human Rights Award by the Idaho ACLU.