The Commuted Sentence ~ Letters from Prison

The Commuted Sentence
A Letter From a Prisoner
reprinted with permission from Richard Laughrin*

[as it appeared in the October 2011 Newsletter]

Unknown Prisoner Reflecting
And if the Holy Spirit can commute each sentence
that you laid upon yourself into a blessing,
then it cannot be a sin.

Thank you for the materials you sent me. I enjoyed the articles very much. Thank you for the information about the study groups and thank you for your time and effort in getting the materials to me. I really appreciate it.

I just wanted you to know that I’ve been a seeker for many years, always searching for that secret, hidden knowledge. That one thing that would make my life more meaningful. I’ve always felt that I was missing something; I just didn’t know what. Books have been the main source for my quest. I thought that if I accumulated enough books about philosophy, psychology and various wisdom traditions I would eventually find what I was looking for. I figured that if I surrounded myself with the wisdom of the ages somehow that knowledge would come to me. I’ve read hundreds of these books and while many seemed to be pointing to the right path, nothing ever stuck. After years of searching and collecting, I forgot the reason why I started in the first place. I found myself just accumulating obscure books, my quest being forgotten. I’m not sure if I would have ever even started looking again if it wasn’t for this unlikely set of events.

Early one morning in March 2009 I received a phone call from my son that would change my life. He asked me to drive one of his friends home who had passed out at this house. I reluctantly agreed to help him just as I had done so many times before. I should have known better. I should have called 911. I didn’t realize that something was seriously wrong. I had a monumental lapse in judgment. I made a mistake that I felt could never be forgiven. As far as I was concerned my life was over.

On December 17, 2009 I was sentenced to four years in the Wisconsin Correctional System. I was extremely depressed. I just didn’t care anymore; I wanted it all to end. I entered the prison system a sixty year old first time felon. I was a completely humiliated and dejected man. This was the lowest point of my life…Little did I know then, that in a few weeks my life long search would take an amazing twist. Instead of me doing the searching – my “search” would seek me out. –

[All new inmates are sent to a Maximum Security Prison to be processed.] After a few miserable weeks of being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day I was feeling extremely hopeless. One of the ways to get out of the cell was to attend one of the religious programs. I signed up for all of them. A couple of weeks later I was assigned to one called, “Miracles Recovery”. the next day I was given a pass to go to the group. I walked down the hall to the room that was written on the pass. When I entered the room I was greeted by a large sign that read:

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God

I had just walked into a Course in Miracles Study Group hosted by A Course in Miracles International based in Wisconsin Dells, WI  I couldn’t understand what it was, but I felt like I was being welcomed home. It was a wonderful 45 minutes that changed everything. When it was time to leave I was handed a booklet entitled “A Course in Miracles Workbook Lesson 1-50”. On the first page of the pamphlet was written “The purpose of these workbook lessons is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world”. I immediately realized that this was exactly what I needed. I walked back to my cell with tears in my eyes and a feeling of hopefulness for the first time in almost a year.

After seven weeks and four Course meetings I was transferred to a Medium Security Prison. I was equipped with my workbook lessons and the knowledge that things were not always as they seemed….


Now I had a great desire to live. This new Medium Security Prison was quite a bit different than the last one. I had a lot more freedom but there were no Course meetings. They did have a Buddhist group so I signed up for that. I started studying Buddhism but I also kept reading my workbook lessons. I noticed quite a lot of similarities between these two schools of thought.

Seven months later I was transferred once again. This time to a Minimum Security Prison with no Course or Buddhist groups. Six months later I was moved again to the prison I’m at now. The day I arrived here I noticed another inmate picking up a large blue book from the mail room. Upon closer inspection I read:

A Course in Miracles
Original Edition
Course in Miracles Society

My eyes nearly popped out of my head! I asked where the book was from and my fellow inmate told me to stop by his room after I was moved in. Later that day he handed me the name and address of Spirit Light Outreach. I asked my daughter to go online and see if Joe Wolfe would send me a copy of the Course.

A few days later my copy of A Course in Miracles arrived. I now feel that my search is over. The Course is all I need. I can’t wait to be reunited with my children and grandchildren.

I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life.

Thank you so very much.



*Richard continues to write and to share his experiences while studying A Course in Miracles in prison. Our CIMS Blog will be providing a “BLOG within a BLOG” for Richard and his future letters will be posted there.

If you would like to write to Richard this is the address:

Richard Laughrin #27967
P.O. Box 219
Winnebago, WI 54985

Learn more about SPIRIT LIGHT OUTREACH here:  Spirit Light Outreach

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