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!!!


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!

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?

Another Helping of Stress


My parole board is right around the corner. How did it get here so fast? Have I really been in here that long?

I’m still trying to secure three key documents that a parole packet needs. But even if I do manage to get them, it’s hard to be optimistic about parole. I think the parole rate for the USDB is less than five percent. Additionally, I’m in my appeals process which to the parole board means I’m unwilling to accept responsibility for my crime.  But if I abandon the appeals process, then any chance I have at getting my verdict overturned is gone.

On top of all my legal issues, I have two final exams to complete to get my MBA. Coming from this bizarre institution, the degree may not mean much to anyone else, but for me, the correspondence courses have helped the last year pass quickly. After I’m done with these two exams, I won’t have any schoolwork to keep me busy – I’ll have to find something else.

Two and a Half Strikes

I decided to retain a civilian appellate attorney, in spite of the repeated advice of many inmates here. The thing is, I haven’t had great experience with military lawyers and I’ve been in the appeals process for four months now but have yet to hear one word from my appointed military appellate attorney. His/her silence doesn’t inspire confidence.

The civilian attorney called to talk to me before he even received my court transcripts. Dare I allow myself to plant a seed of hope?

Parole is a separate process from my appeal and it’s about time to begin preparing my parole packet for the parole board. Given that my clemency board occurred six months after it was supposed to, I have little hope of a timely parole hearing. Even if it is timely, my chances of parole are slim. Parole boards hinge primarily on a few factors: the prisoner’s salient factor score (see p. 36 in linked .pdf), admission of guilt and expression of remorse, and a fulfilled treatment program. My salient factor is higher than my actual sentence, so that’s a strike against my parole. I’m not going to admit guilt, though I’ve expressed remorse over the pain I caused (half a strike). And I’ve had zero treatment while incarcerated (2 ½ strikes) – not for lack of trying.

According to my treatment plan, I was supposed to start anger management classes last May and then being Reasoning and Rehabilitation in September. I’ve not started either. No one’s even told me how long my training is postponed. I’ve now been here nearly two years and haven’t been able to attend a single treatment regimen. So yes, my chances of parole aren’t great. Nevertheless, I have to try. I have to get out of here and begin rebuilding my life and I’d make a million parole packets to do that.

I’ve been here over six months

That’s 25% of the way towards parole eligibility and over 11% of the way to mandatory supervised release.

But who’s counting?

An inmate I know recently went to his first parole board. They denied his parole because they said the sentence he received at trial was “too lenient.” Yep…the people on the parole board, none of whom were at his trial, judged his sentence to be inappropriate.