IT’S OVER

Now I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t a train! Only a matter of days till I returned to society as a semi-free man, still bound by restrictions though much freer than I am now. Four and a wake up as we say in here. I vowed to kiss the ground when I left as a gesture of enjoying the freedom of life outside corrections.

I had decided to give most of my stuff, clothes and everything but my Bible, radio, headset and a couple of other things away to some guys who had nothing. I would take advantage of the generous State offer of brown khaki’s and a white shirt for my trip home as well as practicing my being non-attached to things. True, many would see me and know where I came from because of the clothes, but many would not. Besides, my giving would help more people than my taking all that stuff home. This way I would be down to one bag, and that would only be half full with State issue boxers, t-shirts, socks and my other personal items. And of course the $ 40.00 the State gives you when you leave.

A friend from the church I used to attend on the outside had graciously offered to pick me up thereby saving me the long bus ride into Rochester. He promised we could stop along the way and get real eggs, bacon, cinnamon raisin toast and home fries, you know, a real breakfast, not the powdered eggs, no bacon and lousy white bread I had suffered through for almost five years. Then he would take me to parole and finally, the shelter, my new home for awhile. After that, who knows what I will be doing and if I continue to utilize the talents God has given me.

So I had something to look forward to even if it wasn’t what I really wanted. I basically was getting what I deserved I felt. After what I had done I was fortunate that anyone from my past life, especially my wife, was even talking to me. My son was very supportive, but he was living and working in New York City. My daughter was also very supportive, but was living and working at a mission in England for the past year and a half. Some friends had not wanted to have me contact them but most were still wanting a relationship. So I had plenty of opportunity to practice being non-resistant, even if I wasn’t very good at it much of the time.

In actuality I was in a deep depression. I knew things with my wife were bad, but I held hope of reconnecting when I got out. I knew it would be an uphill battle and would take time, especially because many of our differences had been highlighted the last couple of years. But she had made it clear we would not be reconciling. I thought once I was outside, I might have a chance, even though there were obstacles.

For one, my faith and beliefs were far different from when I first came in, and thus from hers. That would be a problem, as my guide book tells me in 2 Corinthians 6 v14 not to be unevenly yoked. She had made it clear on numerous occasions that I was too conservative in my views for her taste. Interestingly enough, others from the outside had made similar statements, even some so called Christians.

I had made financial plans to keep her in our house and my daughter in college when I came inside. Fortunately, both had worked out. But I knew the cost of having to not only parent all alone but handle the day to day issues had taken a huge toll on her as it would most any spouse of a incarcerated guy. So she had changed in some ways, gotten tougher as she had to do, almost like some of the inmates had done in here during their time. It was always said the ones on the outside do the time with you, and so she had.

Then there was the trust issue. I had broken all forms of trust with her with my many actions and offenses. From her statements, as well as her actions of not wanting me to parole to our home, she made it clear opportunities to build it back would not happen because she was not a willing participant.

So the last few days became a blur not only because I was thinking of getting out, but because of a phone call on 11/11/11. a Saturday night I will never forget as long as I live. Maybe those numbers were satanic. Whatever, it started me down into that deep depression.

I had played basketball and done really well and returned to the dorm feeling great. My shower was satisfying and I was next in line for the phone to call home, something that was difficult to do with over 30 guys and two phones. Fortunately they were in large booths which were more like closets with doors, so they were really private. Little did I know how I would need it.

My turn came late, well after the 10:00 count, but I was still feeling good, hoping I might use this one last time to change her mind on things, at least letting me stay in our 2800 square foot home somewhere until I could get an apartment or room elsewhere. The conversation was civil at least, until we were about to finish. It was then I heard someone in the background at our home. When I inquired, she told me who was there. She seemed very comfortable with this. They had just finished dinner and were getting ready to retire when I called. I was in shock and didn’t know what to say at first. I had long thought she had a boy friend, but friends and even relatives said no. Well, it now seemed they were wrong.

Regardless, I was devastated. It appeared she had been with him for some time, probably about the time she removed her wedding band I reasoned. In reality, when I meditated on it later that night, it was probably just how she felt when I shocked her with my betrayal of her. I could think of little else. Fortunately the classes were boring and didn’t require much action on my part which was good as I couldn’t concentrate anyway.

I remember crying and begging her not to go upstairs with him but to no avail. She was very matter of fact and simply responded this is how it was now. I am not sure how I ended the call, but someone was knocking on the door for their turn so I had to exit.

The main lights were off in the dorm fortunately as I made my way to bed. No sleep for me as my mind replayed the phone call all night long. I bounced back and forth between self pity, shame and guilt. The ripples of my offenses were still being felt in all our lives. And I certainly was not being non-judgmental.

For the next couple of days I existed in a fog. Further attempts to contact her went unanswered. I knew she was soon going away for work for a few days out of town and I wouldn’t be able to contact her. I wondered if he accompanied her or not. Truthfully, my mind played several games with me despite my attempts at prayer and meditation in scripture. It was not like I could talk to anyone here about it, and God was already aware of things – even the outcome. So I prayed and cried to him for mercy and help in still processing this whole train wreck. Only He knew what would happen after I got out and years to come, so I prayed for the wisdom to continue being faithful and holy, and ultimately after a couple of days, for His will to be done, no matter how difficult it would be for me to accept.

I still had so many inside corrections to work on, and this presented a huge one. The only thing I could do, the only thing I had to do, was to prepare for life outside corrections. Prison and marriage. I struggled with them both for the last four and two third years.

Now, its over.

THE LAST DAYS

Things seem to be humming along as far as the last days are concerned. The only hiccups seem to be from the outside.

My wife said she could not visit until mid October, so I had to fend for myself as far as packages of food went. At least I didn’t have to deal with her aloofness.

Fortunately I knew about a former inmate who started his own supply business for inmates and got DOCS approval as a supplier. I found one of his fliers and ordered some fresh fruits and vegetables, though the options were limited. Back at Mid State I remember a guy saying he wanted to start a business like that when he got out, and now he had done it. I knew by the prices he was not making a ton of money as yet, and I read he was adding new items as soon as they could get approved. He basically was buying the fresh stuff from the cheapest and closest place to each facility that he could. He also had a basic route for deliveries depending on which part of the state you were in. I had heard he was setting up a warehouse for some items that didn’t have a short shelf life and was trying to stream line the business best he could. I thought it was wonderful what he was doing, knowing first hand how difficult it could be when inside to arrange quality food packages. So it worked out that I could support him and also get what I needed, another test of being non-resistant.

When my wife did visit finally, she brought along a neighbor couple. I knew things were going from bad to worse for our relationship, and now she didn’t want to be alone with me. They chatted nicely like we were out to eat somewhere, except they didn’t have the special strip dance at the end like I did when it was over. Nevertheless, it was good to see them as well as my wife, even though she still refused any personal contact as well as to accommodate me when I got out.

That left me scrambling for housing lest I get shoved in the local shelter. The joke was they always had two tenants there, bed bugs and roaches. Needless to say it was not high on my list but looked like the only option left available to me. My wife said she and a friend went to check it out. Despite not getting past the lobby, they said it looked fine. Right.

Other than that the only excitement was when I went out to a Rochester court to get my level sentence. You see, each sex offender has a level that the state uses to determine the likelihood of re-offending. It is based on a point system, with the more points indicating a higher, more dangerous level (according to them) and more likely to return. From the various categories, I was overwhelmingly a level one, which would expire 20 years after my original sentence began back in 2007. The categories included things like was there any violence, any weapons, did you know the victim, was there actual physical contact, and if so, number of times, things like that. It also included whether you were a willing and active participant in the sex offender programming inside corrections. You received at least 10 points if you refused to take it, dropped out, or were kicked out.

I had been told by my counselor at Mid State that I was well below the 70 point total that started level 2’s. Anything over 110 was a level three. Twos and threes had to register every quarter for life upon release, quite a burden to carry. Many states were getting rid of the registration or starting to while others, like Florida and other southern states, were making it tougher. So while not worried about what would happen at that hearing, I was still a bit concerned. I prayed earnestly that God would watch over me and be fair and consider the changes I had made and was still making. I had heard horror stories of judges holding grudges against sex offenders and raising levels for spite, so my prayers were definitely needed. I asked family and friends who were willing to do the same. Sadly, my wife was one who said she didn’t know how to do that and it was up to the judge anyway.

From all the reading and studies I had read it seemed a majority of sex crimes, especially computer and other non-contact and even other non-violent sex crimes were better served with intensive counseling rather that imprisonment. The latter often simply hardened the offender rather than aiding or changing him for the better. But New York State at this time did not feel that way about sex offenders, or even drug dealers and other small, non-violent crimes. Lock ’em up was their answer. Of course it also created more jobs.

I had friends and relatives tell me my sentence was way too harsh. While in agreement in the beginning, it was after I got hit at the parole board that I began to see, while I agreed it was very rough, I truly was not ready to be released at my first board and wouldn’t have been a really cured individual, still working with one foot in the world and one in the Lord’s kingdom, still fighting for myself rather than a full surrender to Him.

Unfortunately, for many Christians today, it doesn’t work well that way, half in, half out, something I learned about myself in those intervening months. After recently re-reading my letter after failing to get the Work Release Program, I could see why the first board said negatory on my release. I still had a great deal of inside correction to do, was still arrogant and selfish and now had the time to accomplish it. Of course I thought the sentence was a bit harsh, but I needed correction. Guys now getting sentenced for my type of crime often got even longer sentences. And yet, we all marveled at how guys with rape or other forced sex were receiving lesser sentences. No rhyme or reason to me, but it forced me to practice being non-judgmental.

So I was more than pleased when I arrived at the court house and the judge seemed relaxed and honorable and said he saw no reason to assign anything other than a level one to my case. It made all the rigmarole getting there and back worth it, including the strip search on either end. Just another case of God looking out for one of His believers I thought.

To help me with staying on the right track I continued to attended Bible studies at the make shift chapel at Orleans Wednesdays and Saturdays and church on Sunday and Sunday evening. Outside preachers would come in for the Sunday services and I greatly enjoyed them. The limited Bible studies were good, but I thought not as good as the ones at Mid-State. However, the message was the same, and I needed to hear it over and over so it would become natural for me and not just a part-time thing. I saw that with others, especially the ones who sadly left their Bibles at the door, truly only a jailhouse religion for them.

While I was counting down the last days, I was blessed with a corner cube which offered windows on two sides. I always loved nature, having grown up on a dairy farm and seeing it everyday. Now I could see it whenever I was inside. With the move I also picked up the morning porter job of getting the cleaning chemicals for our dorm. The regular CO noticed I was always up early, around 6 (a habit I never lost from my farm days) and so offered me the position which required an early pick up of the chemical box. It also afforded me an opportunity to get an early breakfast without waiting in the long lines of the normal morning meal time. The added benefit of keeping busy was one I particularly liked as well as being excused from the dorm clean-up activities which usually was very unorganized and proved a disaster.

While some inmates loved to veg their time away, I longed for activity to help the time pass quicker, so this job was, as I say, a God send. It gets me out on these crisp fall days. Even the spiting snow didn’t deter me. I also get first dibs on the newspaper brought to the dorm as everyone else is usually at breakfast when it comes. I only have to fight the regular CO for the cryptograms, as she also liked those word puzzles. We worked out a great plan, as one of us would copy it down for the other to work on as the day went on. Another blessing.

So I was truly getting near the end of my bid, something I clearly remember thinking in the beginning would never happen. Here I was, a few weeks out of getting out, kind of surreal in itself, but actual. It seemed more so when I met my parole-officer-to-be during one morning of class. Because I think he was a little intimidated when I towered over his barely 5′ frame, he appeared tough in his talking to me, or maybe that was just who he was. For some reason he was accompanied by a lady PO who seemed rather pleasant.

After the usual outline of the conditions I would be under when released he also mentioned the likelihood of my paroling to the local Rochester shelter since I had submitted no alternate plan. More restrictions were mentioned, then time for questions. I mentioned my desire to start my own home repair and maintenance business, which he all but vetoed on the spot. When I mentioned my idea to get homes for sex offenders he snorted and said ‘where are you going to get money for that’ or some such remark. I did not mention that I was planning on cashing in what little IRA I had accumulated to start the process as I got the feeling he already thought I was nuts. The lady PO politely said that it was a NIMBY situation, people would say Not In My Back Yard.

So with somewhat dashed hopes I left, though I truly felt the Holy Spirit telling me, as He did to Hezekiah centuries before, God’s got this, not to worry. It gave me more practice on being non-resistant, and in my PO’s case, I attempted to be non-judgmental, though I must admit with little success at this time. I was still feeling some excitement of the last days as I returned to my dorm. So what if there were so many restrictions on me. It was only for the remainder of my parole, two and a third years. So what if they didn’t like my work plans or ideas to aide other sex offenders with housing, their biggest hurdle when trying to re-enter society. They weren’t doing a great job at it, and maybe my wanting to do something highlighted their inability to do anything about it.

Regardless, I was looking forward to life on the outside and leaving corrections behind. It now was a matter of a few weeks as we were getting to the end of October.

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