DIARY of 8/16/09

                                             Diary of 8/16/08

I have been feeling pretty good lately – successfully completing the ISOP and ART courses – just received a package of whole food and also bought some cherry tomatoes and green beans from a guy who raised a garden in here. Work is going well. I applied for the work release, which I feel is tailor made for me at this point, and God has surely been good. (all the time) So I have even been smiling! So when my co-workers Raul or William are down and give me sad news, I feel guilty that I feel so good when they are so down.

What Raul says is true, that we are being tortured in a way with the crazy cube compliance rules and more, “legally being tortured and harassed” as he describes it. They (the people in charge) found a way to get at us that is within the rules. It is driving him crazy, like a caged animal and coincides with what William says about this institution (and prisons in general) which do not really rehabilitate or even care about doing so. Both independently say it is no wonder the recidivism rates are so high. I agree. The people here do not really care if anyone is learning or changing, it is just a job, even for the counselors. Make sure no one escapes or hurts anyone (especially other CO’s) and life goes on. Some staff, maybe even most, will even tell you that, a la Sowich in orientation, that our being here keeps them employed and food on their table – for generations. Our coming back is basically job security, so why change what works so well for them? (especially with those state benefits)

It is all so punitive, definitely not the atmosphere for any learning let alone rehabilitation to occur. I have to be careful not to let it, or Raul and William, affect me to the point I lose my focus. I will say I really do not think anyone wants rehabilitation, as the prefix ‘re’ means “to go back to”, “restore” or “do again” so that if one is transformed back to what one was prior to coming in they will, tada, go back to being the criminal they first were and thus perpetuate the whole system. Instead we, I believe, want to habilitate or change and prepare guys for employment, new habits, etc. So with the institution’s mind set, what do they really expect?

Society in general knows so little of what really goes on (or doesn’t) in here and because so many politicians and media outlets do not care, they have a great misconception of life behind the fences/walls. True, there is a great deal of nothingness that occurs – sleeping, card playing, working out, T.V. watching – that is all guys can sometimes do to cope with all this. Because everything is aimed at the lowest common denominator, little gets accomplished every day. Guys explode, get tickets, go to the box, but nothing is done to alleviate the problems. Just more band-aids. No thought is put into making the system better, rather just more controllable. It is almost inhumane the way we are treated – and I am in the Honor Dorm for goodness sake!

I guess it’s up to the educated men to help change the public’s perception as well as change the reality we have to face every day. Living “free” in one’s mind goes only so far, and takes the strong willed. I need to remind myself that every day or I can get pulled down by others moods. After all, it has taken me a few months to get over being hit at the parole board, with little to no help from any counselor or person inside corrections. The Pastor was little help, but the civilians who come in from the outside for Bible Studies were the most effective in getting me out the doldrums and dealing with reality.

Seems that is the real problem, dealing with reality in here. No one wants to face the true reason they are here or how long they will actually be here. It is just too difficult to face. I know a guy here in the honor dorm who heads up the law library who has been down over 28 years. All he has to do is take the bar exam and he could be a lawyer, a very sharp individual. He is upbeat and content, even though he knows he probably will never go home. I am not sure of his crime, probably murder for a 25 to life bid, but it sure doesn’t matter to him. He even stopped going to the parole board every two years, not wanting to face getting hit again. He deals with the reality of his situation and has moved on, having learned how to peaceably and gracefully live inside corrections.

I am slowly learning by giving it up to God. It’s not always easy, but I am practicing for when I get out, which will be far sooner than for my law library friend. Reading the Bible helps and reminds me others have gone through similar or worse problems and still maintain their faith in God, so I surely can.The peace that surpasses all understanding is my goal, just as described for followers of Jesus in the Bible in Phillippians 4 v7. Again, practice makes progress as I make constant inside corrections.

As for more reasons for my joy, I am earning extra money, about .20 per hour, refereeing summer basketball. I decided it was better for me not to play on those outside courts but rather make some money to help with commissary. I started my new job in OMH, facilitating ART for four guys. The civilian counselor turned everything over to me and simply sits there while I do everything, which actually is okay with me as my teaching background is being effectively put to good use. Plus he seemed lost the first day and hasn’t done much since.

I also was moved to a single room in the honor dorm, a real treat. While there are no doors and I have to walk through the two-man room, I do have a small closet and plenty of room with my own window with no bars on it! I can open it fully, smell the fresh air of summer and really enjoy the cool evenings. It faces west, so I get great sunsets as a bonus.

It also seems CO’s know me all over the campus, because my work often takes me all over, and most act as if I am invisible, which is great. (except when they stand outside my OMH classroom to listen in) My desire is to “leave whole” as most say, and learn more about myself and my God as the Bible teachers say. So despite being inside corrections, life is about as good as it can be.

LETTER FOR APPEAL ON DENIAL OF WORK RELEASE

Letter Sent on Appeal of Denial for Work Release Program

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but
Against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness
Of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6 v18

I appeal my denial of work release for many reasons.

First of all, I was already sentenced for my selfish, careless and impulsive instant offense, have paid a dear and costly price for it, so why is that being used again as a reason for denial?

Secondly, I am confused as to why DOCS thinks I would be a community risk. Do you not feel your Sex Offender Program is worthwhile or can successfully rehabilitate someone with a sex offense? Surely you must feel that prior to releasing an inmate (offender is the new politically correct term) they should successfully demonstrate certain skills and practices satisfactorily to the counselors and practiced in the programs. How else could they complete the program or be deemed ready to re-enter society?

Over a year ago I successfully completed all of the required programs including that very Intensive Sex Offender Program (ISOP) here at Mid-State even though I was deemed a low level offender. Also successfully completed are ART, which is part of that ISOP, ASAT, which was also included but not a requirement for me, as well as Phase I, II, and III. How then, if you value your programs, would I be considered a risk?

Moreover, I presented to the parole board in March 18 letters from community members who have known me a minimum of 12, some 25, even 35 years, all of whom have visited me at various stages of my incarceration and welcome me home, not feeling I would be any type of risk. I also had seven similar letters from family members who have also visited me. Wouldn’t they know me better than someone who talked to me for three minutes?

Okay, so maybe they are prejudiced. Why not consult with people who interface and work with me everyday here at Mid-State and have for over a year? Counselors like Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Sowich, Ms. Smith, Ms. Lamb, Ms. Virkler, Mr. Silverman, Mr. Rena, Mr. Drayton, Mr. Picente or Mr. DeJesus. Or program people like Mr. Buttimer and his numerous civilian staff, Reverend Ellis or Father Webber? Even officers Femia, Helmsley, Kemptner, Cooney, Dodge, Ally, Morse or Harrison just to name a few who would be able to talk about my character more positively and accurately. Add to that the several outside civilians who come in for PACE workshops, Bible Study or athletic events and you have people who really could tell you what it is like to work and rely on me on a daily basis any outside community would do if I was in a work release program.

But let’s look at the real issue here, the elephant in the room. No one wants to be accountable for allowing a sex offender, rehabilitated or not, to be released on work release of parole despite DOCS own statistics showing the contrary. They show there is no difference in recidivism for sex offenders released on parole or conditional release according to DOCS study from 1985 to 2007. Those who do come back are at an 8% level, with computer crimes such as my instant offense, half that. While any crime against another person is too much, does 4% probability constitute a community risk?

Who then is responsible for my actions once on work release or parole, who is accountable? I am. Can you detect from that some eloquent words in a three minute conversation or written in an appeal? Doubtful. As I show when I facilitate Phase III and ART, people’s values and attitudes are shown in their actions and behaviors. If you take a look at mine or talk to the numerous people, I know they will paint a different picture than the one of community risk as evidenced by my actions and behaviors. If counselors were accountable for each sex offender returning to a community, you would have more ownership in the outcome. Interesting concept isn’t it.

Barring that, you should study the individual to assure he is responsible and taking ownership of himself. My work in Mid-State, completing a 2000 hour DOL Counseling Aide I Program, a PET/HIV Education and Facilitating Course (enabling me to facilitate such programs in here or on the street) an 80 hour legal assistant course, passing the legal aide exam also good on the street, as well as numerous Full Gospel Weekend Seminars all while maintaining a clean disciplinary record demonstrates I am taking ownership of my rehabilitation, making use of the resources I have don’t they? (I did receive a ticket when a property bag of mine was stolen since it contained my State issue razor, but no disciplinary action was taken) Is this a person that poses a risk to a community?

Moreover, because of all this, I was granted an Earned Eligibility Certificate. While this does not guarantee release on the minimum terms of your sentence, there is a presumption that it will occur. If incarceration is for rehabilitation, what further good is achieved from more confinement save that of punishment? I have achieved all three, punishment, rehabilitation and an Earned Eligibility Certificate. What will change between now and my parole or CR? Does DOCS some how mentally “get off the hook” for responsibility it they make me CR versus a work release program? Or maybe it is just no one cares other than the inmates willing to appeal such determinations, and no one is accountable for the program results. What a shame.

I would also not simply receive a “get-out-of-jail-free” card, but rather would be supervised closely by parole whenever I am released. However, anyone of the previously named people who know me understand that my re-offending is something I would not do. This whole ordeal, train wreck actually, has been an ongoing nightmare. Not only while in the ISOP but long after it I have continued to work on bettering myself through reading, discussions, meditations and prayer so that I may, as my outside Pastor says, “ do the next right thing.” I daily work on necessary inside corrections to be that better person. I will always have the daily reminder of losing my wife, home and business due to my reckless, selfish and inexcusable behavior. (Not to mention the daily discomfort, often pain, due to a knee injury which occurred at Fishkill) No, I can safely say I am not a risk to any community I go to, and refuse to be defined by the label I will wear for the next 20 years out there. As my work in here has demonstrated, James Van Wagner will be known by far more than a sex offense or label.

Finally, if granted work release, would it not enable me to show others such a thing is possible, that if they work hard (as I have), keep a clean record (as I have), successfully complete all aspects of the program (ditto), that there is hope? You have a unique situation here for, as Stephen Covey states in his Seven Habits book, a win-win scenario. Obviously it is a case by case basis, and it would require a shift in thinking, to a glass half full rather than half empty, a positive reinforcement rather than a punitive one, moving forward rather than doing things the way they always have been done. As noted German philosopher Johann Wolfgang Von Gothe is quoted as saying (hanging in all the classrooms inside corrections by the way) “If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he out to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be.”

I respectfully request that my work release be granted. I similarly respectfully request enlightenment and edification of my questions.

5-2-09 LETTER TO JACK

Sat. 5/2/09
Hi Jack,

Well, down to 30 months – haha! Now I am in the long weekend, when my world often comes crashing down. The sun and fresh spring air tells me I should be outside gardening and/or other enjoyable tasks, Yogi at my side. Speaking of that you are probably tilling your garden. We have a roto-tiller should you need one, there for the using. Weekends are when the realization comes to me that it will be three more springs before I can plant and then harvest. After Friday, the time slows to a crawl and every minute seemingly reminds me of things I would be doing on the outside. Fortunately we have Full Gospel Men’s Business Meeting today 1-3:45, so that will help. It’s the 1st & 3rd Saturday of each month. That is the organization where I was elected VP, so I preside over most of the meeting, introducing and filling gaps. It is good fellowship, but sometimes I find myself “putting on a happy face” for it. Sometimes I do not and they get me like my miserable self is. Most there understand and then attempt to tell me all the reasons I should smile (c’mon) and praise God and clap and sing and yell (c’mon now!) Hallelujah and whistle and shout joy and “Amen”. Well, it often just ain’t there! Sometimes it is. Today doesn’t look good.

Don’t take this the wrong way. Sometimes I think, especially after talking with my wife, that I should do my bid in my own world. I think the intersecting of worlds is the most difficult. I so enjoy the visits and letters, but the transitions are difficult. This last week was pretty much in this world, and while difficult, things seemed to move along. I know it is all the emotional baggage I carry that affects me – I’ve ruined not only my life but my family’s as well – how could I do such a thing, I am the scum of the earth, etc. While I can sometimes battle it and know God loves me, I AM STILL HERE!! Thankfully there are no bars on these windows as I sit here on my bed & look out.

I think I can understand celebrities more now, whether sports or movie or even politicians. They are always being watched, scrutinized, analyzed, picked apart and studied much as I feel I am. Whether for good or negative, it goes on, whether by CO’s, civilians, even my family and friends. I am grateful I can safely vent to you Jack, and even cry my eyes out (which I am doing now) with you. Thanks. I am and will survive, I know that. It just is so difficult to do, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Being so close to everyone, yet so far, that crossing of worlds is so difficult. I imagine it is similar for you when you visit.

I probably am rambling. Definitely venting, but I recall you “asked for it”! Here’s something I have not really verbalized either. I know I betrayed our marriage vows, destroyed the trust of her, “cheating” and causing pain and turmoil in her life. We all (out family) are paying a terrible price for it. I think her shunning me and not wanting me back, which is understandable in one way, is also damming and a violation of our vows as well. There. Twisted? For better or worse. Oh yea, I strayed & broke them first. But are we keeping score here or what? Maybe I should just move on as she suggests, thereby putting to rest a good deal of angst. We have talked about how things will never be the same. They should not be!! Especially if this is the result of how we were – both of us miserable. I have taken a much closer look at me, and I think she has too. (both me & herself) Maybe that is why, ironically, she wants to go solo while my desire is to stay together. Maybe in 30 months that will change – for both of us. Sometimes, at the urging of the one or two guys in here I can talk to, I think it would be better to go somewhere else and start over fresh, clean, where nobody knows my name, crime or baggage. Syracuse is a good town. Rambling. Hey, at least it’s not hanging up! (that is definitely in the past)

Kentucky Derby Day – best Saturday in sports. And quickest too. I will be shaving my long beard – haven’t trimmed it since before I went to the board. KD is definitely spring in my book. Do you watch it? I do not know as much this year about the horses. I do know a little – a 76 year old owner who loves his horses – even washes them (like I would do). A 19-year old jockey. I may even cut my hair!

Another thing that bothers me. My wife obviously knows me very well. She may, in fact, know what is best, seeing the big picture so much better than me. This has been true for her throughout our marriage. Maybe you can relate as Cheryl seems to have that vision too. My big picture is more of doing – like I was trained back on the farm – do, do, do. She is more relationships and interaction vision with people, how she grew up in that huge family. Seemed like a marriage of two good, complimentary people. I do think there is enough blame to go around, so no sense going there.

Yes the trees are bursting out here. Last weekend when the temps were in the 80’s the forsythia just burst out over night. Gorgeous. The horticulture workers are preparing the flower beds around here which soon will abound with color. I am trying to find someone I can negotiate fresh vegetables with from that group. Last year I was very fortunate.

Guess as I re-read this I unloaded on you Jack. No need to answer or comment if you do not feel it. I am so mercurial it seems, up & down, hour to hour. I do not have the temper that sets some guys off at the drop of a hat, but have other things touch me and pull at my emotions.

Not sure if you heard about an inmate getting stabbed & killed at nearby Mohawk Prison in Oneida. He was an sex offender and they, two PR’s, were in a squabble over a domino game. No telling the real motivation. They went into the bathroom to fight – that’s where “real men” settle their disputes in here, away from eyes and ears & cameras. Kind of shakes things up, bringing reality to the surface so to speak. I am vigilant and not too concerned right now, although the flavor of this jail continues to change toward more mental health & SO occupants. You just never know when one will pop off because you looked at him the wrong way (or beat him in basketball!) The latter is what keeps me going and actually safe. That is the prison way, however, so I will embrace it. The love of the Lord is the way. I know that, and try to always put him first – Prov. 3:5-6 for sure.

late later – Had a good Full Gospel meeting. Was supposed to go one way but seems the Holy Spirit moved us in another. Went well, however, with many guys giving testimonies. It was good to see so many young, and I mean 18-20 year olds, give it up. We all encourage them to continue it both in here and out, which is often a major problem. The fellowship feels good. Interesting differences from Ontario’s church.

I may add some more tomorrow. I have several people to write back to as I have been postponing it due to mental illness. Temporarily thank goodness. Or not. Thanks again for lending an “ear” so to speak.

Peace & blessings to you
Van

LIVING ON

So what was I to do? No parole, no freedom to look forward to in two months, just more of the same. I could continue my pity party, but that was growing old pretty fast. Even William remarked about that. He was on a violation of his first bid, so he had seen many in my shoes and even been there himself. Now is when you see what people are made of, several Christian advisers from the outside cautioned me. When tragedy or hardship strikes, how do people respond? Do they blame God and give up? Do they dig down deeper, roll up their sleeves and go it alone, trying harder rather than smarter? Or do they pray for God’s will to be done and work with His agenda? I chose the latter, even though I previously did my own thing primarily, and even though it was not easy and I wasn’t sure of His great plan for me at this point inside corrections. I never blamed God for my situation, but I did think He might have given up on me.

Well, I called and cried to my wife for one thing. She was quiet most of the time, maybe already sensing I would not make it. She had to grieve and process it as well. I had turned her life upside down, and now the roller coaster was up and down again. Not being as spiritual, I wondered if she had been praying for me or just waiting to see how things worked out. I was too mired in self pity to ask at the time. From what she said, or more what she didn’t say, I gathered she would still visit and support me, but I felt a coldness start to creep in. Not that I could blame her.

My next call was to my brother. Normally guys get one call and when your time is up, the phone goes to the next poor guy waiting. I had forgone going out tonight on evening rec time, and since no one seemed to need the phone right now decided to call my brother to talk with him. I knew he would be able to relay the word of my being hit to my mother who had just turned 88 and was in a adult care home near him. I desperately wanted to see her and worried she might pass before I got out, another reason this whole result hit me hard.

He was disappointed as well and I think he understood how hard it hit me. He volunteered to visit a week from now on Saturday and bring a food package which I greatly appreciated though at the moment I could not think about food. It was true I had lost about 25 pounds the first few weeks of incarceration but had been able to gain about 10 of that back. Right now I felt I had lost that and knew I was obviously going in the wrong direction, not being very heavy to begin with. But his offering felt so good to me, the much needed solace I needed and craved right now. I had the feeling he understood the situation better than most, that loss of freedom which I so desperately wanted to gain back which had slipped through my fingers. Once again I learned to not take for granted that freedom that was now controlled by others and would be elusive for at least another 24 months.
He advised, as most others, to be strong. I knew it would hit my mother hard as this whole situation had. I had flown to Florida where she was living at the time of my arrest to talk with her and explain to her the probable outcome of my reckless escapades. I was not sure she fully understood everything, but she surely grasped that I was most likely headed inside. I was very careful in my letters to never hint at the pain I was going through, mentally, physically or emotionally and made sure I put a positive spin on things so as not to cause her more pain than she already had, knowing her youngest was in a state penitentiary.\

She was a strong Methodist, and often my letters, especially the last year, centered on my being born again and the strong feelings I had believing in Jesus as well as the wonderful results in doing so. Now, writing to her about my Bible Studies and church activities actually brought back those feelings and started to chip away at the rock of disappointment I felt burdened with. It is true, as the mind goes so does your will, and slowly I was working my way out of my self-imposed depression. What also aided greatly in that department was doing for others.

My boss told me the head of the Psychiatric and Observation of Mental health Department (OMH) was looking for someone to facilitate classes for her down the other end of campus where these guys were dormed. I think she knew a change would be good right now, and it was only three mornings a week. I eagerly volunteered, feeling it was right up my alley, as I had led the programs she wanted, Phase III and ART before. Most of these guys were not that far out, and many were almost ready to enter, or in some cases, re-enter general population. The lady who interviewed me was a little skeptical on hiring me, I felt, until I assured her I was not going anywhere, having just been hit by the board. In fact, I used some of my ”I am not the same person now who did those reprehensible things” speech on her. Something told me to concluded with my teaching background and desire to frankly, help others as I was sitting in a pretty dark place right now and knew giving to others was not only what I needed, but what Christ desired of me. I think she could see how honest I was being and said she would be in touch.

Otherwise I was starting to living on as before, just with a more reserved and, William told me, somber attitude: work, Bible studies, and working out with basketball or weights, with occasional walks in the yard in the evenings. I also continued my letter writing for others as well as more impromptu tutoring, another thing the Holy Spirit directed me to pursue. After all, there were so many needy guys inside and many earnestly wanted to improve themselves while here, and I certainly had the time. It seemed to take on a special feeling now. In fact, it made me grateful for all that I did have and helped shift my thinking from me to others and God, something I needed to do, a major inside correction.

THE OUTCOME

Interestingly enough when I returned to the Honor Dorm, not many guys asked me how it went. I wondered if they knew something I didn’t or just were too polite to ask, knowing what William had said about sex offenders not getting out on their first board.

Regardless, I kept to myself for the next couple of days until I would receive the news of my fate. In the meantime, I learned of a work release program that allowed inmates the opportunity to work in the community and transition back to society slowly, while working outside but living inside corrections. Gradually you would not only work on the outside more and more, but live there too. It was a step by step process that allowed inmates the opportunity to get used to the freedoms again while still having structure. Eventually the weekends would transition from staying inside to alternating outside, then full freedom after a determined length of time. Of course you would still be on parole for the remaining time of your bid, but you would be outside, maybe even home.

This appealed to me, as something seemed to tell me I was not going to be paroled, so I vowed I would apply if I wasn’t paroled. Maybe it was the way that lady turned the pages of my parole packet with her ruler. It might have been the way the older lady said nothing, as if there was nothing to favorable to say about my case. Perhaps it was just the parole packet itself, not only the length, but the audacity of me to present to them a recommendation that was contrary to the norm. Or quite possibly it was simply because I was not worthy of being released at this point, like William had said. Whatever the reason, I had a gnawing in my stomach, probably from not knowing as much as the fear of rejection once again.

After all, I had spent a great deal of my life working at being accepted, from my father, to my friends and then my wife. That was the competitive drive that kept me going often times, even in here, not only on the basketball court, but work environment and social platform as well. That ego driven desire to do better had served me well in several arenas and certainly helped me survive in here. Do better and people will like you. They, and even God, will overlook all your shortcomings if you just do and are better. Otherwise I will be an outcast, never measuring up to expectations and amounting to anything worthwhile. That was the outcome I worked against so much of my life, desiring to be recognized, respected and loved at almost any cost.

It carried over to my escapades on-line as well, continually working at being worthy enough to be accepted and desired. After all, it was not working all that well in my real life, or so I felt at times, so maybe in the make believe world of the internet it would. Strive for better, more, stretching beyond myself to gain a more favorable outcome, one I could control. Otherwise, if I left all things to chance or in someone else’s hands I would always wonder what if. So I would be my own master and help determine the outcome of my fate.

Well, that was more difficult inside corrections where I had little to no control. Especially where the parole board was concerned. I felt I had done my best, carefully preparing the best packet I could, attempting to appeal to the changes in me, the inside corrections if you will, and stressing my plans once released. So to wait on someone else and be held to their timetable for results was very aggravating to say the least. But then, I had no choice.

The outcome came in the mail Friday afternoon. The word spread quickly after the first guy everyone knew had gone to parole had received his sealed envelope of the results. Everyone knows pretty much everything on the inside, there are no secrets and someone is always watching. So my turn came, and I took the envelope from the CO’s hand and immediately went to my room to open it.

I had been moved in by the window in our two man room, so my locker afforded me at least the appearance of privacy and isolation. I tore open the envelope and began to read the outcome: “Blah, blah, blah ….after careful review of your record, it has been determined by the parole board of New York State that if released at this time you would not remain at liberty and be likely to re-offend which would not be in the best interest, safety and well being of the community at large.”

Wow. Re-offend? I would be a threat to the safety of the community? Not remain at liberty? Had they not been paying attention to my packet or anything I had said or done? How was this possible? How could this be? I would have to stay at least another two years before I would get a chance to plead my case in front of a new board? Unbelievable. I had done all I could and didn’t measure up once again. I was beyond disappointed. I was speechless and almost thoughtless. I knew my wife was expecting the results, but I couldn’t even talk right now.

Guys I knew pretty well came in hoping to hear good news from me. One guy, a huge guy aptly nicknamed Bear who had befriended me when I moved in and also from Rochester came in to find out. He was actually moved to tears as I was about the results. He also was a sex offender who had not gone through the program and didn’t intend to, choosing instead to max out on his time so as to forgo not only the program but parole as well. He just sat there next to the bed where I was laying, numb to the world. He said it would pass, that I was strong and would make it, and needed to rely on Jesus now more than ever or something to that effect, I don’t remember the exact words.

A threat to society? Re-offend? The words kept crying out to me as I cried into my pillow. I am not sure if others came in or not, as I was hidden below my locker and truly didn’t care. I don’t remember getting up to stand for the count as was the rule. I didn’t care. Throw me in the box, it doesn’t matter now how many tickets I get or what happens, I am not going home for at least two more years.

Our dorm was called to go eat but I was not hungry. The parole outcome took away not only my appetite but my desire to do anything. For a while, the darkness that had enveloped me when I first was arrested started to overtake me, but for some reason I started to pray. I asked God to help me through this unfair time and to take away the burden of having to do more time inside corrections. I do not remember all I prayed or asked of Him, I just know I was pleading. It didn’t occur to me to blame Him as I knew I was the one who had brought myself here. Mistakenly, I felt I was the one to get me out.

I must have fallen asleep as I cried and prayed, because when I awoke, guys were shuffling out to evening programs and recreation. I stumbled up and figured a long walk in the yard might be good, hoping I wouldn’t see anyone who might ask the outcome of a very trying and long week.

As I descended from the third floor to go out to the yard, it hit me how I had not really involved God in all this parole process that much. Oh sure, I had prayed a little for my release, but certainly not for His will to be done. I had once again attempted to do everything myself, by my own power, providing all by myself once again. Maybe the board was aware that I still was only working for and by myself and not really changed that much from the person who had initially, by myself, done all to get me here.

I knew God had already known the results, and now I had to figure out how I would involve Him in my next move or outcome. As I circled around the yard on the half mile dirt track, I prayed for forgiveness for keeping God at bay and not involving Him more. I pledged I would not do that again. I had, as one of the civilians who came in for Bible study had said, let my ego rule, and as the letters spelled out, I had Edged God Out.

Both outcomes, parole and leaving God out, now had to be dealt with and overcome. There was only one course of action I could see, one outcome, and I now was going to work with God to formulate a better plan to achieve it. I had to. My efforts were all in vain. It was time I listened to Him.