Apr 6, 2009 – Release

Monday, April 6, 2009 – Release

I’m not even out yet and I’m already facing disappointment. I was supposed to be picked up by someone from the apartments I’m going to live at. That should have been between 8 and 9 am. I stood at the ready all morning in my nicest jeans and shirt waiting for my redemption. 10Am rolled around and I got on the phone. I have a wonderful support family. I met them through their son in county jail almost 3 years ago. They’ve been my biggest supporters ever since. So I called “Mom” who wasn’t about to let her “son” sit in prison longer than he had to. She picked me up at 10:45 am. I walked through the gate at 11 am. I received $119.76 “gate money (that’s $40 from the state given to every releasing inmate, and the balance from my saving after having worked as a clerk, a porter, and a teacher’s aide). I stepped outside to the car that awaited me. It seemed like a golden chariot. I stopped and looked around me. The perimeter was no longer a chain-link fence with razor wire. It’s a parking lot. Beyond that, the town. Beyond that, well, the world frankly. Not only literally but figuratively. What I do this first day, this first week, will lay the foundation of my future. There are certain things I must do and do quickly because the Department of Corrections, nor society, tolerates a non-compliant sex offender. Which is good. That knowledge/fear will help keep me focused. I can succeed; I just have to remain diligent. My “Mom” picked me up. It was strange stepping into a car again. The remnants of a busy life were everywhere: cell phone, post-it notes, gum wrappers, pens, CD’s, an empty Starbucks cup, and a make-up bag. Wow. Not 5 minutes before, all this stuff was contraband. Now, all of a sudden, they’re part of normal life. I was a bit skiddish being in a moving vehicle. I’ve spent the last 28 months moving at 1 mph. Now 35 mph seems dangerously fast. I wished I’d had a chicken brake on my side of the car.

Horses. I saw horses on farms. That was nice. Man didn’t create horses and the less I see of man’s creations today, the happier I’ll be. “mom” took me straight to her house where my “brother” was. He was released from prison in May of 2008. It was so good to see him again. Our bond since county jail has been on a spiritual level. It’s strong. We’re brothers for life. Like war veterans, we’ve been through an experience together that most don’t understand. Our bond has also blessed me with an entirely new family; a family that’s closer than relatives.

I have 18 months yet to serve of my 46-month sentence. These will be served on “Community Custody” or “Supervision”. This starts today. I was assigned a Community Custody Officer (CCO) 2 months ago. I’ve tried to contact him over the last 2 weeks through my prison counselor and my Dad. But the CCO doesn’t answer his phone nor does he return his messages. Which is what I ran into today. There are 3 things I must do within 24 hours of release: 1) Register with the Sheriff’s office, 2) Go to my CCO’s office, and 3) Call my RMS (therapist). (As a sex offender I must take one year of treatment in prison and one more year of treatment after I’m released.) It’s 2 pm and I’ve done none of the 3 things. I did accomplish one thing, I got a haircut. I made a vow when I was sentenced that I wouldn’t cut my hair until I was released. There’s so much symbolism associated with that…I wouldn’t know where to begin. Now that my hair is short again, I feel like the yoke that I bore inside prison has finally been broken – cut away. I feel light and new. With a donation to Locks of Love, someone will benefit from my time served. I finally made it to the county Sheriff’s office around 3:30 pm. I would have been there earlier, but I am at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. I’m nervous. The sight of the Sheriff’s deputy sitting guard outside the door makes me a bit uneasy. Not to mention the sight of two 15-ish females sitting in the lobby. I got a form to register as a sex offender. I must be kept track of because I strike fear into the hearts of the people. I hate that. I don’t want to be feared. But I am, and will continue to be. I filled out the form, they finger printed me, and took my picture. I left around 4:15 pm.

Next stop, my CCO’s office. I got there at 4:55 pm. My CCO wasn’t there. I was greatly admonished by another CCO for arriving so late. He went ahead with the check-in process, which consisted of signing forms and reading regulations, and (in my case) listening to how irresponsible I am for getting there 5 minutes before they go home. I guess his frustration is understandable, considering the people he has to deal with day in and day out. He doesn’t know that I intend to do everything that’s asked of me and become a respectable member of society. Not all men are like that coming out of prison. Some have no intention of making a better life for themselves. Some look at it as one more lesson on how not to get caught. Not me. I regret what I’ve done and how it’s impacted my victim, her family, my family, and the community. What can I do to make it better? Be a better man.

After checking in with the CCO, my “family” took me to a nice restaurant on the waterfront. Now, I know that they have some financial worries, so to drop $60+ on a dinner for my benefit was moving. I also felt ashamed. I certainly don’t deserve this. But family is funny. They usually see past all the bad stuff one has done and see into the heart of their loved one. That’s what motivates their deeds. Then they took me to my new home. Oh Lord, help me. I’m glad I’m a Christian, because I’m looking for a Home that’s yet to come. I see everything here as temporary. Especially where I just arrived. I looked at my “family” with a hint of fear in my eyes. They wanted to take me back to their house. And I wanted to let them. My apartment is a studio with nothing more than a bunk bed and dresser (besides the kitchen appliances). And it came complete with my new roommates belongings flung across the time room. My first thoughts included: “I may want to go back to prison”. Not to violate, but to have structure again. I was only in prison a couple of years and I’m already apprehensive about being out.

My roommate came home around 9:30 pm. He was at a group counseling session. His belongings were in a heap because he had just moved in today with no time yet to put his stuff away. I’ll call him “D”. His attitude amazes me. In the face of a world that hates him, he remains optimistic and hopeful. He is not ungrateful nor cynical. He has no money, but wants for nothing. He has no job, but believes the right one is out there somewhere. He has no supportive family here, but calls the men in this complex his brothers. Indeed, we are brothers. Not just under the banner of our common faith, but also of our circumstance. We are sex offenders. And where most folks would be nervous to have a bunch of us living in one complex, I am here to say that it is a good thing for the offenders and a positive thing for the community.

Once an offender has served their time in prison, safely separated from society, then what do you do with them? This economy and society are hard enough for law-abiding citizens to make a go for themselves. Imagine if you will the crippling effects of your own choices preventing you from getting around normally. Nobody’s fault your yours and you must deal with and be understanding of these additional obstacles on your life’s journey. Talk about insult to injury. Yes, in my case, these obstacles were created by my choices and actions. But that doesn’t make it easier to bear. In fact, that adds the “shame factor” on top of all the external struggles. And that’s a heavy addition to life’s already difficult road. I am determined to make it though.

What if I turned out the be the Hero of this story?

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