This place is getting crazy. There’ve been multiple fights and a few housing units have gone on extended lock downs. So far, nothing has happened in the unit where I live — thank goodness. I think things are getting more tense with the holidays approaching.
Perhaps that’s why they chose to double up on guards this time of year. The National Guard military police unit is here for their annual two weeks of training. It’s amusing when this place has too many guards and not enough for them to do. Instead of one guard doing a daily search of my cell, there are three guards crammed in there climbing over each other to rifle through my stuff.
In other news, after getting denied parole, I’ve appealed the parole board’s conclusion. Should hear back no later than January.
Talked to Russ on the phone yesterday after a long hiatus. He used up all of his phone time and money trying to keep in touch with his family during his mother’s last days. So he’s been trying to keep phone calls, which cost him a pricey $0.32/minute, to a minimum since then.
He said he’s been working on his appeal to the parole board (a separate and lesser process than his appeal of his conviction) and he finally got a copy of the parole packet the USDB sent off to Washington. He had been eagerly awaiting this packet.
If you haven’t been able to keep up with this whole post-conviction judicial process (and let’s face it – I can barely follow it even when I hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak), here’s a quick synopsis:
Russ went through a local parole board at the USDB before the federal board met in D.C. to discuss his parole. Along with various letters and documents that Russ gathered for his parole board, the USDB sent a packet that included their own paperwork and recommendation. When he stood before the local board they told him he wouldn’t know their recommendation immediately, but following his federal parole board he’d get a copy of it. Well, he did. Except the entire thing was blacked out and redacted, so he has no idea what the local board actually recommended. So that’s helpful.
Even less helpful: the USDB didn’t include copies of Russ’ most recent documentation. A big part of the parole process is accepting responsibility for one’s crime (we discussed his parole process here, here, and here). But the federal board saw paperwork that said Russ hadn’t accepted responsibility for his crime and had as a consequence, “refused” treatment. In fact, Russ has accepted responsibility for his crime and has completed all treatment available to him. He’s put his name on the waiting list for treatments not yet available. (That’s another story – the system is so back-logged that he’ll have served his full sentence before a slot opens up for his “mandatory” treatment. But if he’s paroled, he’ll be able to enroll in the same treatment in the civilian world almost immediately.)
The good news, if you can call it that, is that the red tape bamboozle may increase his chances at successfully appealing his parole.
So if you haven’t heard, the USDB now only accepts inmates who have been handed sentences over ten years. Those with lesser sentences typically go to the JRCF (Joint Regional Correctional Facility), which is also on Ft. Leavenworth. The policy has slowed the inflow of inmates considerably. Reception only has three people in it for the first time since I’ve been here. The pods are still crowded, but it feels like the inflow now roughly matches the outflow of inmates granted parole or released after serving their full sentences.
Today I glanced over at a table in the chow hall and sitting there together were two of the more well-known inmates: Manning and Sgt. Bales (and a mysterious third party).
**Correction. I thought Russ was referring to Hasan as the third party when he wrote this post, but apparently he wasn’t. He couldn’t tell me the name of the guy he was referring to, but he said it wasn’t Hasan. It was someone else who’d committed a mass shooting, but he couldn’t remember the guy’s name. I haven’t been able to find someone matching the criteria Russ gave me. I’ll get some clarification next time I see him! Sorry for the confusion.
At 10 p.m. the facility announces night time work call. About 65 inmates, including me, leave our housing units and walk 200 meters to the main building. We crowd together so we can push through “the gauntlet” in the largest possible group.
The gauntlet is a line of guards waiting to conduct random searches. Typically, they pat you down, which used to bother me. But after hundreds of pat downs, I no longer mind it. I don’t care much anymore. Guards might not pat you down – instead they might send you back to shave or to return food items and things that aren’t allowed at work such as books.
Once through the gauntlet we go to our assigned work detail. I’m laundry. We spend the next seven hours working and battling boredom. My detail washes and dries USDB laundry, as well as laundry from the post’s hospital, gym, and chapel. We also tear down and re-assemble body armor that comes in from every Army post world-wide.
The work is easy, but monotonous. The hardest part is finding a way to entertain ourselves without being written up for “horseplay.”
At the end of the work night we all get frisked by the guard in the laundry room and then we go back to our housing units, passing through the gauntlet once again.
Then it’s breakfast chow call and a shower. I lay down to sleep just as the daytime work-call crackles over the PA system.
Entry 1, from Aug. 28:
My parole board is next week in D.C. I’m so anxious. One of my closest friends and my ex-wife are going to speak to the board on my behalf. I figure if she can still say good things about me, that has to speak volumes, right?
Entry 2, from Sep. 5:
Well, my friend who’s a Major in the Army felt pretty good about how the parole board went. He said the board members’ attention and body language was positive. My ex-wife was more skeptical. She said she was concerned that the board only lasted 35 minutes. I’ve heard that’s actually longer than average. Of course, out of the 15 cases reviewed that day, mine was the only one for which people showed up to speak on my behalf.
Entry 3, from Sep. 7:
The wait for my parole board results is EXCRUCIATING. They said results can take from two days to two weeks. It’s so difficult to manage my expectations/hope.
Entry 4, from Sep. 9:
My name is on the pass roster for an appointment tomorrow morning with the parole analyst. Good thing I work nights because I know I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’m more nervous about this than I expected to be.
My request for parole was denied. What a giant punch in the gut. I’m numb. I just need to sleep.
Entry 5: from Sep. 11:
I’ve slept for about 18 hours straight. Now I have to figure out how to tell my kid, dad, and friends that I’m here until next year at the very least.
I get to appeal my parole denial through the commandant to the board in D.C. After two days of letting this sink in, I’m ready to re-attack with renewed vigor.
The board in D.C. made note of all the good things I’ve done, but still said I need to serve more time so as not to “depreciate the severity” of my crime. How do you argue that point?
I don’t think I mentioned it – but only four hours after I received my parole denial I was summoned to Academics to receive a certificate from the commandant. She congratulated me on completing my MBA in only 12 months. It was hard to smile and accept the certificate. Now that I’m thinking about it again…could that have been strategic? A soft pat on the back to lessen the impact of the kick in the pants?
I got called down to the bench. Being called to the bench usually means you’re getting written up for something. They call you to inform you of the rule you’ve broken and the status of your investigation. So as I walked to the bench, I mentally scoured the previous days, trying to figure out what I was in trouble for. I couldn’t think of anything.
The watch commander told me I had a Red Cross message. Much like during a deployment, that’s how you’re notified of family emergencies in the DB. The message said my mother was in critical condition, the doctors found cancer in multiple parts of her body. The watch commander tried to console me, “It doesn’t say she’s dying, though, right?”
I don’t know much about cancer, but I knew there was little room for consolation.
I called my dad. He said the doctors had given my mom 10-14 days to live. I asked to speak to the warden about emergency parole to visit her before she died.
You know how in movies the prisoner gets out for a day to attend his mom’s funeral? Well apparently that doesn’t happen in real life. At least not here. Not even under guard.
The warden told me I could have a free call to the hospital through the Chaplain’s office. It took two days to fill out the necessary paperwork and schedule the call, but I was finally able to call the hospital where my mom was admitted. The hospital directory connected me to her room. The phone rang and rang. Eventually, a nurse picked up. She said my mom had passed already.