Well, the honor dorm seemed to be as good as advertised. The two man room is great, and a single room is off that, none with doors of course. I started with the bed near the hallway, then will move inside later as vacancies allow, then to the single room depending on seniority. You can watch television 24/7, shower alone, fix food in the spacious kitchen with two microwaves, two refrigerators and a toaster oven, do your laundry, all anytime you want. Moreover, you are called out as a dorm first for meals, rec and all programs, giving you a head start on the crowded walkways. It also means you can take your time and not have to rush on the walkway as before. Dawdling can risking the wrath of any CO who might want to hassle you and push you along so they can leave their little guard houses and do who knows what till the next movement time.
So I was happy to meet new people, all who had been selected because of their good record, not based on their crime. I knew several guys because of outside activities, from sports to religion to work. So I was not starting off completely new which was nice. I found there were several chess players too, so I would have a chance to practice my skills. Since Mid-State was basically a sex offender and ASAT (alcohol/substance abuse treatment) facility, most guys were here for one or the other, or both. After conferring with some, I quickly found most were here for the ISOP. I received many questions about “the program”, as guys had heard I just graduated from it. Word travels very quickly inside corrections, and, as we say, someone is always watching. In fact, I was not the only inmate to have a large eye drawn on a notebook or put up on the wall. I know the freedom that comes with this housing could easily be taken away, so I need to be on my guard continually.
Work back at Transitional Services is starting out well. There were a couple of new guys doing call-out, but my boss put me there temporarily, saying she had some changes coming up. One, William, was on a violation and had gone through the program before and was waiting his second go round in it. He was from Park Avenue in New York City, well educated and trained as a french horn player in the Philharmonic Orchestra. He had traveled the world playing, so he too had a world education and view of things, leading to many great discussions. The other, Charles, had just started his bid at Mid-State, though he had been in the system for some time and was what you might call ‘hardened’. He was great to talk with as well, and after hearing his story, I could understand why he might be bitter toward the system.
He was a black man from New York City accused of rape, but swore his innocence. He was thrown in a lineup when they gathered people near the scene, and a hysterical girl picked him out. He had passed a lie detector test, but this was the early nineties, so no DNA could be processed. Later, after the process was more utilized, his lawyer requested the garments with seamen on them be tested. Somehow they miraculously disappeared in transport from storage to the lab.
He seemed a mild manner guy, having attended The University of Kansas on a track scholarship. Unfortunately racism caused him and his twin to return home here he worked menial jobs till the incident. During his incarceration, his twin brother died, but the authorities would not allow him to attend the funeral.
So there we were, three guys in a cramped office with little work to do. William was a computer whiz, so he had improved on the things I had previously done and really done more streamlining. Consequently, we finished our work early and usually were waiting for departments to bring their lists of call-outs to us for entering for the next day or week. Once finished, we usually had to almost draw straws to see who would take the half mile walk down to hand-in the list for printing. Often Charles would decline, leaving William and I the task of delivering the list. The CO in charge allowed the two of us to go, which not only was a great gift but also very unusual as well. It also gave us plenty of time to talk.
It was actually the next week when I was moved with William into the Phase I program to be trained in facilitating it. There presently was a Spanish guy there who Ms. Sowich wanted to move to the Phase II Program, leaving a void which we would now fill. We were to observe, participate as necessary, and look for ways to improve the experience for the inmates. We thought this was interesting, but reasoned if it was more interesting with more involvement, guys would get more out of it. Jose, the existing facilitator, could not be happier and often went who knows where.
In Phase I, inmates are presented with all the various aspects of their new facility, having just arrived here within a week. All the different disciplines, programs, work and recreational opportunities were presented by various faculty and staff. It was our job to introduce them, then answer any questions after they left that guys were too afraid to ask or knew would get a stock reply. We noticed right away this was often the best part of work, as guys would have simple but direct questions that they knew would get glossed over by the staff. True, a CO was not too far outside the room, but conversations would be kept low and often code words or phrases would suffice.
We learned to tell the skinny on who was straight up and who was blowing smoke, though sometimes that was readily apparent. I had a difficult time finding out that in each class, there were several who completed their previous bid, even parole, and now were on a new one, not just a violation. It was difficult because I could not see doing something that would ever bring anyone back inside corrections. While there were many on second bids, some were on a third or fourth. There were always plenty of guys who simply violated parole and were sent back. They too had to repeat this week long class even though they may have been here before.
So my new phase of life looked good right now and I was looking at my parole hearing in March. I had talked to a number of people who advised getting together a parole packet for the board. In it you would list your IO, repentance of it, any accomplishments you had inside and letters of reference that were pertinent, showing your change since incarceration. This was something I wanted to do and do well, so I was beginning to put thoughts together and pen to paper. Being near a computer was a great aide, and I again felt the hand of God directing my path. He had helped me through the program and guided me in my daily life here. I needed to continue to put my faith in him, not myself, working and training to do the next right thing, following the apostle Paul’s advise in Philippians 4 v 8-9: “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever thins are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…meditate on these things… and the God of peace will be with you.”
May it be so.