Getting Short

I asked Russ during our last visit to think about a few things he wanted to do once he got out. Here’s the list he came up with: 

1. I need to see my son, visit with my father, and somehow thank the friends who’ve stood by me throughout this whole ordeal. I don’t know about the mechanics of these things, but I’m aching to do them … I’ll have to figure out HOW as soon as I get my feet under me and get a feel for what this new chapter is going to be like.

2. I want to wake up on day one of freedom and go for a 5 to 10 mile run – maybe get lost. I want to just go out in whatever direction the wind takes me and get lost in the sunlight, the breeze and do something I love.

3. Also on day one, I want to eat my favorite restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory. I’m going to eat a basket of their rye bread with butter, drink a gallon of their passion fruit iced tea, and order more food than I will be able to finish, including cheese cake, of course.

4. Speaking of food, I also want to go to a mall and sit in the food court. I’ll gorge myself on some decadent fast food … Chick-Fil-A, maybe? But really I want to just watch the people go by.

5. While I’m still focused on food: I want to go to a huge grocery store and fill up a cart. I can only imagine the random assortment of food I’ll walk out with. I want to stock up on all the things I’ve gone without over the past three years: fresh fruits, dark chocolate, juicy steak … and a whole bunch of other stuff that I won’t know until I see it.

6. Since it’ll be August when I get out, I want to find a nice outdoor pool and dive in. I want to swim!

7. I really need to check my email. Somewhere among the hundreds of thousands of emails I’ve missed, there are probably messages from good people I’ve lost touch with.

8. There are practical things that are also on my list: buy a car, turn my cell phone back on (hopefully), and get started at my new job. I’m excited for these things because they mean I’ll be transitioning back to normalcy.

9. I also need to make up for some lost cultural experiences. I want to bar-b-q with friends, download all sorts of new music to my iPod, and reactivate my Netflix account.

10. If I can pry myself away from Netflix, I’d also like to buy a guitar. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in here, it’s that you’ve always gotta be bettering yourself in some way – teaching yourself something. You’ve gotta make a habit out of finding new hobbies. I think because life is so busy people forget how important it is to find new hobbies and get passionate about them for a while.

11. Along that vein, I’ve been thinking about ways I can volunteer. I’ve spent my whole life (minus the past three years) in a service-oriented profession. I think it’ll make my transition from the military and from prison a lot easier if I can create some continuity with my previous life by volunteering at Habitat for Humanity or something similar.

12. I’ve also been thinking I’d like to set a reachable goal for myself – who knows if I’ll be good at this new job I’ve got, if I’ll have a good relationship with my parole officer, if I’ll be able to manage this transition well. But I WILL be able to summit Pike’s Peak. I think I’ll need that sense of accomplishment  – so that’s definitely on my list.

13. Speaking of which, I’ll need to convince my parole officer that I’m not a dirtbag – that I won’t be a problem for him over the next few years.

And so many other things. So so so many other things. But that’s all for now.

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.

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.

 

Parole Patience Log

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.

wrestling throw

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?