WHAT’S NEXT

So what’s next?

Waiting. All I could do now was wait and see. I am not good at waiting but am getting better. Prison has taught me that. everything we do here involves waiting. Nothing you can do but wait. What’s that old joke, I was going to be a doctor but I didn’t have the patience. Well, prison can help with that.

Do I not talk much in front of the board? Don’t talk too much. Hopefully my answers are what they wanted to hear. I need to stress the change in me. I hope my support packet is worthwhile. I am sure more nervous than I thought I would be, though this is a real important day in my life inside corrections. I knew my day before the board was coming, and sure enough my name appeared on the call-out to go in the morning, along with several others.

We were herded into a vacant old classroom atop the counselor building where one by one guys went in to plead their case. I do not know how they determined who went first or the order, but I do know all of us were nervous. Wait. Seemed like that’s all we did was wait inside corrections. If we were not called before lunch, we would be given the infamous bag lunch – baloney and cheese sandwich, two sugar cookies, an apple and huggie (juice pack) and would be seen in the afternoon. No one wanted to get a tired board after they ate who knows what lunch, so all of us were hoping for the AM version.

I have to admit in the state I was in it was not my first instinct to pray. I was so nervous thinking about the two possibilities, stay or leave, that I was caught up in the worry whirlwind that often envelopes me in such situations. I felt I had to do everything I could to get released, that no one else was really fighting for me. My wife was indifferent it seemed, hoping, but a little reticent about everything on her last visit. My brother wished me well when he last left. But now it was up to me I felt.

Regardless, there I was waiting with several others when a CO came and announced the names of the first two inmates, one going in and one on deck so to speak. It seemed an eternity till he returned and called two others. Interestingly enough, the rest of us did little to no talking. Finally, my name was announced with another and the two of us trudged down a hallway toward our fate.

He went first, so I had more waiting to do, stuck in a chair in the hallway a distance from the entrance to the parole room. Hurry up and wait I thought, finally allowing myself to smile at least at the paradoxical  thought.

I had rehearsed a million times what I thought I might say, and another million responses to questions I thought they might ask. I must admit things began to get a little blurry in those last few minutes waiting to face the board.

Then my time came. I was ushered into a musty smelling room with a few people inside, my counselors and a couple other faculty members I recognized there in chairs behind where I was directed to sit, right up front of course.

The three board members, a middle aged man on my far left, a similarly aged African American woman in front of me and an older lady to my right. I am not sure who spoke first, but they introduced themselves and ask me to identify myself, which I did, complete with din number as required. I had carried three copies of my parole packet and asked if they had it, to which the man replied he had seen it. I nervously passed two other copies to the ladies and sat back down. As they started asking questions, I could see them glance over it. The man flipped pages barely leaving any time to read. The lady in front of me turned the pages with a ruler, an image that stuck in my mind, not wanting to touch anything that might have my cooties on it I guess. The lady to my right said very little. They asked why I had done what I had done, especially at my age, basically saying what were you thinking? From other questions I got the feeling they could not fathom what I had done and how I possibly could be a prospect for release. What were my plans if released? Where would I live? What would I do? Things were definitely blurry, and then they asked if I had anything else to say. Here was my chance, my one and only chance, to state succinctly why I was a great candidate for release. Honestly, I do not remember all of what I mumbled, something about learning and changing, that my life long mission was now to repay those I hurt and offended as well as help others avoid the failures I endured, or something to that affect.

And the it was over. Thank yous all around. I was handed a pass to return to my morning program and sent on my way. It was so difficult to read the board, or the ISOP counselors I saw on the way out for that matter. Stone faces, no eye contact, kind of like you don’t want to look at me right now because I know something you don’t. Or maybe I was imagining it.

On my walk back to the Transitional Service office, I replayed it over and over in my mind. I should have said this or that, or brought up my Earned Eligibility Certificate, or something. Maybe begging would have worked, something to get a reaction rather than the feeling no one wanted to get within 10 feet of me, a sex offender, who might infect them or something worse.

Now it was hurry up and wait once again. Wait for the reckoning, outcome, verdict, future of where I would be residing. Work was difficult, and of course everyone asked how it went. William was his usual gloomy self saying yet again that sex offenders, 99% of the time, do not get out on their first board. I told him I was planning on being in that 1%. After all, I had come to Mid-State, gotten into the program quickly, successfully completed it quickly, and now would hopefully go home quickly. I also hoped positive thinking would hold sway with any powers to be, and prayed the one, true power, God, would help.

LETTER TO THE PAROLE BOARD

Letter To The Parole Board

I first and foremost want to sincerely apologize to my community, family, friends, and neighbors as well as you the parole board for my risky and reckless behavior. It was inexcusable. It could have caused extensive harm, and has caused the taxpayers excessive amounts of money to arrest, prosecute and imprison me all because of my selfish and heedless actions. I am grateful there was no real victim who could have suffered irreparable damage from this crime. It has caused me deep sorrow, physical and mental anguish, even to the point of suicide. I take full responsibility for my conduct and am deeply ashamed of my behavior as well as seriously affecting the lives of my wife, son, daughter and countless others due to my inappropriate and impulsive actions, even to the people in this room.

I have looked back to see how self-righteously I acted. The humility I now feel is far from the arrogance that allowed me to converse with a minor in the manner I had done with peer age females. It was this selfishness and lack of forethought for anyone but myself that affected my community, family, friends, work associates and colleagues. The shame, guilt and humiliation I feel is overwhelming. I now carry that as a reminder of what such hubris can do to a person’s life and as a safeguard for returning to such a high level of pride.

I began personal counseling after my arrest and later attended group work for sex offenders. Both were suspended after eight months due to my incarceration. I continued once inside, being an active and willing participant in the Intensive Sex Offender Program (ISOP) here at Mid-State, in fact lobbying to be placed in such a program as soon as I could be. I also continued my personal work and investigation into my actions by reading several current books and articles on the subject as well as corresponding with my outside therapist regularly. That went on more intensely after I successfully completed the ISOP to the point of me wanting to help others supplement their understanding of their sex-related crime. To that end, I put together a proposal for a 12 step program for sex offenders which was accepted by the head of Mid-State ISOP.

The knowledge I have gained about my motives and myself has spurred me on to obtaining my Department of Labor Training Certification in Counseling Aide I. I will continue this investigative work on the outside as well. It will aide me in my goal of working in the counseling field part-time upon my release. I am also going to resume my personal and group therapy and begin marriage counseling, which should have begun years ago prior to my IO, had pride not kept me from doing so. Replacing that feeling is a desire to build back the relationships and trust with all that I have hurt, showing one may fail, but can also remake themselves into a productive, contributing and working member of society once again.

Because of all the learning I have gone through on this my first (and last) time on the wrong side of the law, I know I cannot possibly forget what I have gone through and experienced in this foreign side of life. I have gained information that I feel could be appropriately used to benefit society and may help prevent others from doing as I did. Clearly I abandoned my morals for selfish reasons. By utilizing this knowledge in a positive way, along with my learning in the programs taken inside corrections, I know I am a better person, one who has grown to where I will again be a positive contributor to society.

I thank you for your time and consideration for my release.

This is the letter I included in my parole packet. I also had background information on myself, listing of specific activities while inside corrections, copies of recent work evaluations as well as the Earned Eligibility Certificate, a complete parole plan, letters of support from family and letters of support from various community members. All in all it was over 60 pages, all neatly typed with cover letter and table of contents. I used my evening time judiciously to make it as complete and professional as I could. I talked to some in the law library as well as others who had done or were doing similar work to get ideas. My friends at work, William and Raul, also gave me pointers as they had been in before and had experience with such letters.

On the one hand, I didn’t want to make it too long or boring. But on the other, I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned and miss my opportunity to show the lasting changes I had made. I was repeatedly counseled not to put much emphasis on religious growth as the “jailhouse religion” rational didn’t fly well with boards. They had heard it all before and felt it was overused to gain freedom, not a true representation of a lasting conversion.

The board itself would consist of two to three members who would ask questions and hear anything I had to say. My counselor would be there as well as a counselor from the ISOP. I gave three copies for the board to my counselor in advance so he could forward them appropriately. I also was going to take three more just in case they had not received them or hadn’t had a chance to read it. I was told the hearing itself would last probably 5 – 10 minutes at best, with no way to know the outcome till receiving the news by mail three days or up to a week later.

As I re-read the letters of support from friends and family I started to cry. Here were those closest to me, the ones I had hurt the most, writing to support me in hopes I would be released to return to their community. I was touched by the humanity written there. All the friends who wrote had visited me at least once, some more than that. Most were church friends, but some were just people I had known for a long time. It was true, I had been blessed in this way, having over 35 different people write and over 28 visit me at one time or another, pretty unheard of for most inmates. I was just praying the board would see the inside corrections I had made while incarcerated and judged me worthy of release.

One good friend from the outside, a prominent doctor, had told me he was working on my behalf and going to speak to a high level friend he had who oversaw parole boards. Unfortunately, on a recent visit he told me he was unable to get anywhere and confirmed that the person we all had heard that was arrested for solicitation and attempting to meet an underage female at a motel, a sting operation, was in fact that chairman of parole. He was now a sex offender himself, so there were law suits and all kinds of legal action from those he had supervised or judged while on the parole board. Obviously he was of no help, actually tainting all boards view of people like him – or me.

So I am on my own. But I feel God is with me and will pray without ceasing and asking others to do likewise. I feel that, my continued growth and my parole packet are all I can do to gain my early release.

GETTING READY

How time flies when you’re having fun – or keeping busy. Seems the latter is helping me pass the time and get me closer to my goal, making my board in March. From what I have been told by my counselor is that, should I make it, I would be released 3-4 months later. I would need an address to parole to, of course, and would be released to my county of conviction. My work preparing my parole packet is taking much of my evening even some day time. I do not want to waste an opportunity or have a situation where I would have to say “if only I had done more to get released” or I wish I ….”. So my packet is growing with letters of recommendation from friends and family on the outside and my list of accomplishments inside.

One major addition to the packet is receiving my Earned Eligibility Certificate, something that is required prior to being granted parole. It basically means I have earned my eligibility to be released, having completed all requirements, in this case, my ISOP program. That completion is my main accomplishment since being inside corrections. I have good work history, but no supervisor, counselor, or even my Pastor, whom I have a good relationship with will write much or put their name on the line for an inmate. So I have to rely on people who know me, have visited and see a difference since I came here.

Speaking of work, my job has once again morphed from Phase I to working with Phase III, where inmates are in the last part of their bid, getting ready to go home and face new challenges, some more than others. The long timers will face a new world they know nothing about while the parole violators and short timers will be getting back to where they left off. My job right now is to not only work with guys on resumes, but look for ways to improve the program. I facilitate little as there are two other guys doing that. My primary role is the resumes and I have access to a computer for that work. I utilize it in the evenings for that as well as my personal work, something that my boss cleared with me early on. She figured as long as I do some work for her in the off hours she can help me back. Further, I am doing a report or two for her and other counselors for whatever reason. I think it is because of their lack of knowledge in making a report as I am familiar with Excel, having made all kinds of documents for my work on the outside running my own business. I also do letters now and then for various people, inmates and civilians. Fortunately I still work with my friend William who is very adept at computer work and has taught me many additional things. We have become good friends since we have been working closely with each other for the past few months, as close as you can be inside corrections.

We recently found out that our Transitional Service Office will very soon be moved across the street into a building where most vocational and ISOP classes are held. We will change from a large room with multiple desks to three tiny rooms with fewer desks. Now guys who are facilitators will have to work out of their classrooms, keeping all material and forms there. Part of my new assignment is to update some of those forms as well as possibly generate new ones. I feel they are having me do this because of my background in education and business, tapping into my knowledge to assist these guys before they leave. It works for me, as it takes a good deal of my time and thought. I don’t watch the clock, that is for sure, as there is always something to do.

One of the by-products of this move will be the separation from the night CO whom I have come to know and like. We have several good discussions when I go there in the evenings to work on things. It is like talking with someone on the outside, not being judged or criticized. Because of the variety of my experiences and knowledge, we had no problem finding common ground to talk about. In the new building, I do not know the officers, and our rooms will be further away from his station than they are now, not that it will matter. As it is said, the only constant is change.

So there is preparation for that move, preparation for my upcoming board and preparation for hopefully going home. Most, if not all of this getting ready is mental and emotional work required of me. I have been praying on all three areas hoping God hears my prayers and helps me get released, as He helped me get through the program in a timely fashion. He has also been with me in my work, helping the administration recognize my talents to be used for His glory and helping me do the best I can do, whether for inmates, CO’s or counselors.

So I’m getting ready, ready for what’s next.

NOTES OF 1/5/09

Note to self: re-examine playing after the final basketball game in our “ol man’s league” – losing in overtime after blowing a 12 point lead with 2:36 left I might add!

I feel like I can identify with Dave Dravecky in his book Comeback. The miracle of God’s underlying love for us is the real deal. It’s all a gift after that – anything that happens. At 58 (1 ½ weeks shy of it actually) that I can still score 15+ in a game and be influential is gravy, win or lose. I am already in heaven. This is the “new me” as my friend William urges me to be.

It started because he was telling me I was going to be hit at the parole board next month so I’d better start thinking about that. He knew I had been laboriously collecting information, letters of support and doing all I could to show the Parole Board I was “ready to go” and “deserving.” But he also knew the reality of S.O.’s going to the board for the first time, they don’t make it. Maybe he was right in theory. Whether I get hit or not, whether I go home in ’09 as I hope – along with everyone in my family and numerous friends  – or receive another 24 months as he suggests will happen, I need to react the same. Non-resistant. As I read Dravecky’s book, it came to me that God was the true inspiration for my calmness. Giving it up, the control that I had always worked so hard for in my life and mostly felt I had, just had to be given over to my higher power – God. That was the large lesson in this whole “time out” period that I was going through, the main lesson, that I am not in control.

Day to day I was not so sure. Movement to and from programs in here only occurs if and when it is called – by someone else. Some days it is delayed. Other times we sit and may not to be called at all due to some incident. I have to be content to control the things I can control, doing the best I can in whatever it is I am doing, but in all things giving glory and praise to God.

Take tonight as an example. I played as hard and as smart as I could for my conditioning and, I hate to admit it, my age. Easily the oldest guy out there by at least 6 or 7 years I felt I upheld the “graybeards” as my pen pal friend John Domm has dubbed us who are older with beards. I hustled, shot well and did the best I could on 1 ½ legs. The rest is up to others near and far, Jesus being the furthest I felt.

In my facilitating jobs I prepare and take my work seriously, enjoying helping the guys get ready for the outside after 2, 6, 10 or even an almost lifetime of incarceration. That they come in not knowing where they are going or what they will do and leave with goals and practiced at things like interviews, letter writing and more gives me a sense of doing all I can for them, of letting my light shine through to them, thanks to God. I smile more lately because I realize and live it now, not just mouth the words. When they say the blessings go up and the glory comes down, it is so true. First things first.

It’s not easy “letting go” and it’s not a sit-back-and-he’ll-do-all-the-work kind of deal in my opinion. Not at all. There is meaning now in what I do, even if it is just between God and I, but I have to do the work before He does His. “Expand my territory” I pray daily, and He does just as He did for Jabez.(1 Chronicles 4 v10) I have to remember through my living, I can show and demonstrate my faith and Christian life. Do my best in all I do, treat others as you would have them treat you and love as Jesus did.

Win or lose, He is with me. Go home or stay, He is still here. Not necessarily what I want, but it is as it should be, His will be done. I will do all I can, doing my best and not put myself in a position to say “what if” or “if I had only…”. After that, what else can I logically do? Blame someone? Who? Get mad? Why? Have a pity party? Tried that, didn’t do very well with only one attendee.

Get busy doing, as my former Pastor Cheryl has said, “doing the next right thing” and things will take care of themselves. The negativity leads to a downward spiral and “permissive” thinking, that I “deserve” such and such, whatever my addiction of the moment is. I give myself permission to do, say or just think thoughts of negativity, retribution or evil. “Well, I deserve this because that happened”. Oh really? Says who? Even though society, particularly the media, tells us do it, we deserve it, go get it, me, me, me. As the church people say, it is the devil tempting us. I know, especially now, that way of thinking is definitely not productive. It’s like the guy who just scored on you because you didn’t take away the baseline on defense, or box him out or something. Get back and do your best to score or help you team score at the other end. Similarly in life I have found it is not failing, losing, or getting hit at the board that is the problem, rather dealing with it that is. My response to it. When I am so busy blaming, naming or complaining I am not dealing with it. Whoever said attitude is 90% of life is right.

I can more easily see now how we are not in control of much but our thoughts. I used to try so hard to control everything and everybody in some way or the other – what they thought – if I want your opinion I’ll give it to you type thing – or what happened next – I’LL take care of it. I mistakenly thought what being in control looked like, and if I was in control of my own business, I would be in ultimate control of everything.

In the end, did I travel across the state because I was controlling my own destiny in my business or did my work really control me and necessitate that I be in front of my customers quarterly? I may have thought I controlled my schedule daily, but overall I was a slave to it. It really is liberating to realize the truth, that the harder I try to control things, people or events, the less in control of anything I am! Sounds simple. When you are in the middle of that power struggle, believe me it is not. That’s why this mandated “vacation”, where I have so little control, has actually given me control of my mind like never before, the only real control I have. It has certainly given me time to make much needed inside corrections. As many writers, philosophers and statesmen have noted: if we stay in the moment, something we can control, you will have an easier time.

However, I could do without another 24 months of practice I believe, as I am a quick study. I have come to believe that it will be as it will be. As they say inside corrections, “it is what it is.” I then give thanks to the heavenly Father who watches over all and is with me every day, night, hour and minute. Thank you Jesus!

Sounds simple. Now, to work my plan.