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.