Another Year in Prison
The results of my parole board were delivered to me in a sealed, official Army envelope. As I picked it up, and began to open it, I already knew what it said inside. Maybe I was being pessimistic, but prison wasn’t a very positive environment and inmates were not positive people. Regardless, I believed what everyone said about your first parole board, “No one gets it the first time.”
The letter stated that, “Due to the retributive and deterrent part of Inmate Mike’s sentence having not been served, parole is hereby denied.” What this meant was first, that they felt like the amount of time I had served up to this point wasn’t enough to pay for the crime. Second, that I had not been in prison long enough to keep me from committing the same crime again.
There was a part of me that was saddened by this response. Sad that I had not been convincing enough to the board members about my remorse. Sad that, the fact that I believed I was a changed man, wasn’t good enough for them. At the same time, maybe they knew something I didn’t. Although they did not know about my recent relapse, the fact that it happened was a reality. Maybe I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. Maybe I needed more time as a deterrent like they said.
The other part of me was relieved. Moving to Connecticut to live with my grandfather was not my first choice. I was grateful that he was willing to do that and that the option was there for me, however I would have rather been released to my immediate family. Especially since they moved so close and had come to visit.
Parole boards were annual and so with a denial, I had to wait until the same time next year to be eligible for another hearing. This meant that I had to spend another year in prison. As the weight of that reality settled in, I was glad that I didn’t have my hopes up too high because the disappointment from that would have been too much to bear.
As the heat of the summer boiled on, the monotony of prison increased and it was dreadfully painful. This was the tail end of the second year without air conditioning and it was getting hotter. Working in the mess hall was the same every day. My routines drug on and on. Hanging out in B-6 in the evenings consisted of watching TV. You could ask anyone what the programming lineup for any day of the week was and they would be able to recite it from memory without thinking. Not much else to do. The biggest killer of spirit in the DB was boredom.
Many of the other inmates in B-6 were starting to get on my nerves. The noise levels weren’t as bad as the nights in the Castle but the fact that I could not get away made it just as hard to deal with. Most of the guys I associated with had moved up in custody. Conversations were very superficial. We had all heard each other’s stories many times over.
My escapes were still listening to music, going to the movies and writing letters. I decided to try and make it through the entire Bible from cover to cover. This was no fun task, as I felt myself get stuck in Leviticus and Numbers. Those chapters felt like a different kind of prison sentence. Not sure why I felt compelled to read through that way, except that I felt it was the thing to do being a Christian after all.
It was around August that my family came back to visit me. They had finally settled into their home in Omaha and decided to make the trip back to Kansas. It was great to see them again. It was my turn to ask questions, since the only thing I had to say about my life was that it was boring and uneventful. So, we talked more about what was going on it Omaha, school, life outside these walls. It was interesting to listen to them talk about their lives and it all seemed so foreign to me.
It seems as if my family had so many choices, options and variables in their life. It made me think about, how I was going to handle life on the outside. For the most part, all our decisions were made for us, we didn’t have to think too much about anything. Following rules and routines kept us out of trouble and so that’s really all we did. It doesn’t take long to take a person and make them follow a routine, but it takes a long time to take the routine out of the person. The word for this is institutionalization and I was beginning to feel like it was happening to me.
There were guys that had been in here for almost as long as I’d been alive and there were guys that would be here for a long time after I was gone. A five year sentence was a drop in the bucket compared to many of the other sentences. I had to keep telling myself this to keep things in perspective. Maybe I would struggle a little with transitioning back into life, but I wouldn’t be here forever. Even if it didn’t feel like that was true.
Around October, I had another custody hearing. At this point I was resigned to the fact that I would never make it into the barber shop and so I didn’t even request it. I just requested a transfer to the the Local Parole Unit. If I made the custody level of Trustee, then I would get to go there.
With this board, they just looked at my behavior file, mental hygiene, rehabilitation classes taken and my work performance. Everything was good as far as I knew. All the rules had been followed and all the buttons pushed. Everything they asked of me I had done. At this point, I felt like I would be approved. There really was no reason for them not to.
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