Whatcha Cookin’

It’s funny the things you miss in here. Lately I’ve been dreaming about buying a car (my subconscious is getting way too far ahead of me, there). But I’ve been daydreaming/fantasizing about going to the grocery store. I cannot wait to go buy some food and cook a nice meal for myself.

I also want to reopen my Netflix account and catch up on some shows I’ve missed. I want to go for a jog with my iPod and get lost in the experience.

Simple pleasures. Don’t ever take them for granted.

Parole Dreamin’

Being granted parole has an interesting affect on one’s social aspect. I find I now have three types of social interactions:

1. Endless questions about precisely what my parole letter said.

2. Awkward congratulations from people who are now reminded of their failed attempts at parole.

3. Jerks who want to push my buttons to see what happens when they provoke someone who absolutely will not respond physically.

And while even the #3′s of the world can’t take away this precious little piece of optimism, there are some things that now swerve me towards fits of panic. I heard recently hat a guy who had his case overturned about a year ago is back in reception. I guess they re-convicted him or reaffirmed his case. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for my appeals process.

But then I think of a time not that long ago when I wrote of meeting my 100 day milestone in here and I think about how I only have 200 days left. That first 100 days seems so long ago … didn’t I weather those 100 days just fine? Sure. And I’ll weather the next 200 days just fine as well. Come what may.

Over the ho-ho-ho-lidays

The Christmas meal was a bit of a disappointment. We’re still eating in the gymnasium because the project to re-floor the dining facility is behind schedule. Shocking that a government construction project hasn’t finished on time. I don’t mind the folding chairs and tables as much as the heavy reliance on meager helpings of cold cuts. I used to enjoy lunch meat. Nevermore.

I did get an early Christmas gift. A guy who really annoys me got jumped by grinchsome other guy during dinner. It’s not surprising because, like I said, he’s annoying. It’s almost comforting to know that he annoyed other people – maybe that means I’ve not completely lost my mind. The best part, however, is that he was sent to the SHU (special housing unit, a.k.a. max custody) and will likely remain there well after I’ve departed. That’s one guy I don’t care to see again in my lifetime.

Mega-Million Jackpot

(Note: this post was sent to me in the form of a letter and I wasn’t sure Russ wanted me to post it. I waited until I confirmed he wanted it posted before writing it up, so it’s a few weeks old.)

I was woken up today after only two hours of sleep. A guard was standing directly outside my cell.

“A Miss called for you,” he said.

That’s not some prison-term. I think he was trying to tell me that a woman called for me, but the fact that he was making me decipher this message and its lack of real information annoyed me. I was exhausted from working the night before, but I knew that I wasn’t on the pass roster and I didn’t have any scheduled appointments. I pushed the button on the intercom in my cell so I could speak to the sergeant in the booth. He said someone had called, but the line had cut out before he got any details. I told him I was tired, I was going to bed, but if they called back to wake me up. About 15 minutes later, another knock on my door.

“The CJA office wants to speak to you.”

The CJA office is where you go for attorney phone calls and powers of attorney and I hadn’t made an appointment with them. So I was confused, but figured maybe my attorney was calling.

I came out of my cell and started for the CJA office. Halfway down the hall I stopped to chat with another inmate and he told me he’d heard the parole analyst requesting me. That made much more sense. So off I went, now at least semi-confident that this wasn’t going to be a wild goose chase, also very nervous that I was going to be told that my appeal to the parole board had been denied. It was too soon for that, though – they shouldn’t be getting back to me until mid-January.

In the analyst’s office, I groggily took a seat in front of the desk.

“I’m sorry to call you in so early, but I’m about to be out of the office for a few days. I wanted to give you the results of your appeal to the denial of your parole before I left,” she said.

I wasn’t prepared for this. I’d had hours to prepare myself emotionally for the results of my initial parole board and it still hit me like three tons of bricks. This was out of the blue … a full month early. Nothing happens before schedule in here. Nothing. I wasn’t sleep-blurry anymore. I took the sheet of paper she handed me across her desk and scanned it feverishly.

Reversed. It said ‘reversed.’

Suddenly I was tingling all over … I was nearing a cliff, but I couldn’t let myself jump just yet. I might not have a parachute. Did that mean what I thought it meant?

“You were granted parole on your appeal. Your release is about seven months from now in July,” said the parole analyst.lottery jump

Typically, they give you 90 days notice, not seven months notice, but I’m not complaining. I signed the notification and walked back to my housing unit on a cloud. I didn’t realize how thoroughly I’d abandoned hope of parole, but you can’t imagine the change in perspective I felt. It felt like winning the lottery.

Immediately I wanted to call everyone and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, I only had $3 on my phone account and calls are 32 cents/minute. Ahhhh!!!

Cray

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.

 

Red Tape, Schmed Tape

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.

ImageEven 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.

Happy Halloween!

10+

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.