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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