Today’s blog from our esteemed blogger, Minette, is fascinating and informational. It’s the story of her son’s release from prison and his journey back into life. It’s uplifting and will bring you to tears of joy.
Everything I read indicates prisoners who go to parole board hearings must show real progress in accepting responsibility for their crimes. I don’t think my son went to the hearing, but we hired an attorney to make the probability of his success as high as possible. We recently got a phone call from the lawyer’s assistant that parole was granted. What a relief! A few days later, we got copies of the papers. My son got a copy of them as well. Before the release he had to attend a three-month program entitled Changing Habits and Achieving New Goals to Empower Success (CHANGES). It offers a life skills curriculum to offenders ready for release. The program content included: family relationships and parenting, civic and legal responsibilities, victim sensitivity, health maintenance, employability, money management, and other related life skills. Nothing about technical innovations or other changes in the world that happened since you went in, like Sharron notes is missing in release preparation. Of course, like everything else in prison, getting into this course is not automatic. Inmates apply to get into the course. But my son was relieved that this nightmare was almost over, and so were we. He signed up for the Changes class and luckily for him, it started within the month. No delays this time. He clearly wanted out. We continued to write, me updating him on what’s going on at home and sending copies of interesting articles from the internet so he had something to ponder about or discuss with others that had nothing to do with being locked up; him, saying how sorry he was for putting us through all this, and how he realized he doesn’t belong behind bars and would do everything right to turn his life around. We waited for the weekly 15 minute collect phone calls, where there is so little to say, but yet you cling on every word and nuance. We thanked the attorney’s assistant and never spoke to the attorney at all.
Finally, he was scheduled to be released. He said not to come, he would take the bus back. He told me the prison gave him second hand clothes to wear and enough money for the greyhound bus and some food, and then the prison transport took him to the bus station in town. Along the way, my son started talking to other passengers and he eventually borrowed their cell phone and called to tell us when they expected to arrive in town. A few days later a little before the appointed time, my husband and I drove to the Greyhound station, and waited. We were so excited; the expectations of his arrival made my heart pound. We saw a bus pull into the station. Not his. Then another, and there he was in the window waving. Oh my God, the tears started. As he stepped off the bus, I hugged him so hard. And he hugged me too. Thank God for that. And such a wonderful, real smile on his face. My son was back! I think we held up the line for a bit. But the people after him were smiling also. He told them his story, and I am sure their hearts melted as they saw us reunite.
I was so, so glad to see him. Even my husband was moved. He shook his hand and then embraced him. So nice to see, I was just giggling away. I just wanted to hold him some more. He didn’t deny me another hug, and then I clasped onto his arm. I did not want to let go. I took a long look at him then hugged him again. He had lost some weight, but looked healthy and fine, a bit like a ragamuffin, holding a large black plastic bag with whatever possessions he could take home with him. Eventually I had to let go, we were going to take him home, I couldn’t hold on to him in the car.
Once we got home, I think the first thing he did was take a good long shower. By the next day, he had to call his new parole officer and arrange a meeting with them. I took him to the store and bought him several sets of clothes and shoes. He slept well for the first couple of days. He scheduled a doctor’s visit to see if he had any medical issues. He hadn’t got much medical care in prison. He was also concerned about the impact the drugs he had previously used may have had on him. He was relieved to find that he was well, no Hep C or other diseases, no apparent impact on his heart, lungs or liver. He told us he felt no desire or cravings for heroin any more.
When I said before how happy I was to see my son, that my son was back, I was referencing even more than the time he was in prison. Although he didn’t get convicted about drugs, those were the cause of the problem. While my son was on drugs, he was buried alive in his body under the drugs’ effects. I knew he was there, occasionally, I could see the fight within him for his right mind. It was rare when my real son would win a battle. It was only shortly before he went into prison that he finally pulled himself out. But, too late to avoid all the bad behavior, legal troubles, and prison. Now, I could clearly see the good kid I remembered from so long ago.
Within a week my husband took him to a business situated along the highway that had a help wanted sign hanging on its fence. He saw that sign for over a month, each time he drove pass on the highway. He might not have said much during this whole ordeal, he may have only written my son once during the year, but he did live for those phone calls. Men, so often they share nothing. But he must have been always thinking about it. Once our son came home, he knew he had to get him employed, and he knew where he had to go for that chance.
The company set up playground canopies. He got the job. All the hype that it is so difficult to get a job with a felony conviction, and he gets a job within a week! He had the advantage of looking healthy, clean, strong and having dependable transportation. Months later I found out he also had the benefit of interviewing with someone who had come out of prison a few years earlier. His boss knew first-hand how important this chance was. I will always be thankful to him.
My son did right by him. He was a hard worker, he showed up on time daily, he went out of his way to be helpful and an admirable employee. He took on responsibilities, he was everything an employer would want. Sometimes he would work in parks or school yards or in the backyards of wealthy families. What an appropriate job it was. Building coverings for kids to play under. Making fun safe for kids. That’s a positive karma sort of job. However, in the summer in Arizona, it can be a very hot and difficult sort of job. We got him UV protective clothing and hats. The pay was just slightly more than minimum wage. But overall, my son was very grateful to have the job. Eventually, he would move on to better things. That story will be in my next blog, so hang on for it!