I definitely had landed. Why had I had such little faith that I would? I guess I am not real good at trusting the Lord at this stage, still relying on my own efforts even though my mantra of Proverbs 3 v 5-6 are constantly running through my head: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” I chuckled as I remembered how I tried to reason with the CO’s and how I panicked when I was not on the last bus out that Tuesday. God must have been chuckling too, knowing all the time what the outcome was going to be.
Who knew I would so soon be playing organized basketball again. I may not have been moved down from the top bunk a week and a half after landing here, but I am on a team in the over 40 league. That is what happened after I finally had a chance to showcase my skills during rec time.
I remember back when I first got to the reception dorm, remember returning to my new dorm after supper and talking with others about what was available at night for activities that Thanksgiving night. I sure was not one to lie around on my bunk or watch television. There were actually two TV’s as we were joined to another dorm, kind of in the shape of the letter ‘I’ with the bathrooms, microwave room and television rooms in between the dorms which were on the outside. They also had a laundry area where you could do your own. But the best thing was the individual showers. No more wearing underwear! I was told we could sign out to the yard, gym or library, so I headed to the gym hoping to not only check out the facility, but also get some hoop in.
Once in the building, you had to change into your sneakers in order to go to the gym. Going in one of the two weight rooms that flanked the CO’s bubble did not require any shoe change. I checked out the free weights, then looked at what machines were available in the second room. Then I went into the gym which I had already noticed was packed.
It was a full size gymnasium with two games starting going cross court. Teams had been picked as I pushed to the front of the crowd, but of course nobody knew me and even though I was tall, after all, I was OT – old timer. So I waited and watched. The obvious better quality games were down on the right interestingly enough where the baskets were more level and seemed newer. The games on the left had so many turnovers and air balls I did not think they would ever end. Winners stayed on, so I had to get picked in the next five to run. Guys had already picked ‘next’ and I was not included in either game. So I did what I am getting used to in here, wait.
Finally I got in a game though it was on the weaker side. I felt if I showed well, I could “graduate” to the quality side soon enough. Problem was, guys didn’t pass very much, trying to dribble through two or three guys or just jacked up shots from anywhere. Fortunately, being 6’3″, I was able to procure several rebounds. After passing it away and never seeing it again, I finally did my own thing and took it down, shot and scored. Then again. There were several whoops and hollers about OT which I had gotten used to at Fishkill. All I wanted to do was get in the better game at the other end. But, alas, it was time for the go back, time to return to your ‘home’ for the night. How did I know? The CO’s came in and turned off the lights!
But as with most things inside corrections, word must have spread. In this case that OT was a baller. Soon after that first week of recreational pick up games where I finally was chosen and given a chance – on the better end – to showcase my abilities, I was approached by an inmate asking if I was on a team and if not, would I like to be on his. I had no frame of reference or alternative options at that point so I said yes, jumping at the chance to play organized basketball again as I had at Fishkill. Now I had been playing at least three times a week on the outside in two different leagues as well as pick up games at a local college. The latter I had been doing with the same core group of guys at lunch time for over 25 years. The idea of playing one night a week in league play was nothing for me as I prided my self on conditioning if nothing else. More obviously, it would help pass the time and make this Jumaji world seem more normal if only for the 40 minutes the games lasted, not to mention any connections with others I might make.
Work was also going well, with my boss pleased with the way her call out office was now running and me pleased with the freedom the job provided. I was no longer tied to a desk, but could roam some when going or coming from the delivery of our product. Some times I could also visit the transitional services office just across the large lobby from my new office. It was there all the phase facilitators had desks and worked on stuff for their classes, even sometimes in the evening like I had done in Fishkill’s grievance department. Once again I was back on the computer, able to use my free time to type letters for myself or my co-worker. I also was teaching him about using the pc and what it could do even without any internet connection, and more basically, how to type. I never thought “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” would come into play again, but here it was, a primary tool used to teach him the key board.
Turns out he was down for an alcohol related crime, so I knew he’d be heading to ART at some point, a mandatory class for all drug and alcohol inmates. He said he had no problem with me and my crime, as he knew several others also waiting to get into the program. Seems other inmates would often make fun of guys in the sex offender program dorms and, then after a few weeks, end up there themselves. But I still kept most of my cards close to the vest as previously advised.
I did manage to get on the religious call out for Monday and Thursday night Bible study where outside people came in to teach us various Bible studies. You can attend Sunday religious services without being on the call out, but all evening studies required your name being on the list, so I made sure I went through the proper channels to do so. A couple of guys with older numbers – meaning they had been inside corrections for a while – told me the nights where the civilians coming in were really good, so I signed up. It took about a week before the pastor brought the list down to our office for his religious call-outs. He actually remembered me from church and we had a decent conversation before he left. I was quite looking forward to the studies and he even suggested I check out the Sunday night one as well. Wow, three nights of it might be a bit much, but I knew I could only attend Thursday nights when I didn’t have a basketball league game, so I thought Sundays would be fine. Besides, what better thing did I have to do?
Other than that I was laying low, hoping not to make any waves as suggested my my old roommate back at my previous spot and get in and out of the program as quickly as I could so as to hopefully make my earliest parole opportunity. It had only been a little over three weeks since I arrived and I knew government wheels turn slow so I was pleasantly shocked when my boss, Ms Sowich, came and told me she had heard I would be going into the facility’s Intensive Sex Offender Program, ISOP for short, right after the first of the year. Another prayer being answered and I surely didn’t deserve it. She said she didn’t understand it, how I was being moved so quickly, but that was good for me she guessed and that I would have my job back whenever I graduated from the program. I thought it must have been all the letters Albany had received over the past few months from me, my friends and family trying to get me in it so I could get out.
That would mean another move into the SO dorm and all day classes, so no more work or roaming around. Total structure, but a means to an end in my book. Things at home were strained as my wife was not only still adjusting to me not being there but my income loss as well, so a quick completion and early parole might help. But my manufacturer’s representative company that I had started and built up over the last 16 years would have to be sold and proceeds used to keep my daughter in college and my wife in the house and four acres I had bought. To that end I had recruited a guy, with the help and guidance of an old business partner, to take over my business and pay me and my wife over three years. I had been working on the plan the last few months once my head cleared from all the initial trauma and drugs. The latter was done but the former kept gnawing at me, keeping me pretty focused on getting out as soon as I could. Selling my business to him would ease a burden I had little control over inside corrections. In reality, I had few alternatives.
So this last week we had inked a deal where he would buy me out and pay monthly to my wife just as I had hope and prayed the deal would be worked out. Hallelujah! So many blessings happening all at once it seemed. My nightly prayers included a review of the day, and it really was another day of thanks giving. I had recently seen my wife, received a good package, got to work out, show some guys what I could do on the court and even get on a team, besides hearing I would be getting into the sex offender program sooner than anyone thought. Also, I was not being hassled about anything at this point. So much to be thankful for, but I was embarrassed because of my doubt, my unbelief. That brought with it more shame about even being inside corrections and my instant offense – my crime. I kept letting God know how grateful I was and found myself in an old position, crying myself quietly to sleep, knowing that God was surely good and I wasn’t.