Have you ever felt consumed by something? Not in a bad way, though. Let’s see…you have been planning to go on a vacation to a place that you have been always wanted to see and the closer it gets, the more you think about it. As long as it was on your list of things to do, it didn’t enter your thoughts all that much. But, the closer it gets, the more you start anticipating the things you are going to see, the activities, the food. Or, for you, it might be dating someone. You ask the “right” person for a date and you are looking forward to it for a week out. The closer you get to the actual day, the more “real” the event seems. That is the way I felt while getting ready for my parole hearing. The day before my hearing, all that I could think about was the hearing. I wasn’t nervous or anxious, I was just consumed.
The next morning at about 7:45 a.m. they called me to the Vising Room for my hearing and as I walked across the facility, I was actually singing the new Mercy Me song “Greater.” At about 9:45 they called me into the hearing. As I walked to the Hearing Room I noticed that my visitors were across the Visiting Room from me and I kind of wondered what had happened. When I got into the Hearing Room and sat down, one of the two Parole Board members called the hearing to order. He stated my name, the hearing date, and then told me the reason Ms. Linda Bass (the Director of the Hebrew House) and Ms. Jo Paxton were not in the room was because there were confirmed cases of Chicken Pox in the facility. They were taking every precaution and not allowing contact between us. Then the hearing started.
The best way to describe the next 7 to 10 minutes is a trial without a judge to mediate. The two Parole Board members were District Attorneys and I was a hostile witness. They grilled me pretty good about every aspect of my crime. “What were you thinking when…?” “Why did you…?” “How did you…?” I thought that it was not going well at all. I took full responsibility for my actions. I hate the person I was so many years ago and I truly despise what I did. Then…
…they asked, “You were sentenced to a natural life sentence for taking someone’s life, so why should you ever get out of prison?” (or something really close to that). This was my opportunity, and I was able to present myself and the way I believe. I told them that I was not the same person that I was 35 years ago and neither were they. I have matured. I have developed goals, morals, and integrity. I have new life in Jesus Christ and I have a purpose. I was able to address all of the programs I have taken. I explained all of the skills I have obtained. We talked about the case load limits of the Mental Health Department and why I will be denied treatment while I am in prison. I explained why I thought I should not go back to my sentencing county where I would be in the community with my victim’s family. The stress this would cause them would be unacceptable to me. Then I explained why I thought that a Community Corrections or a Transitional Housing Facility would be best for me after serving so many years in prison.
When I finished, the Parole Board members stated that they knew how much I have changed, how many programs I have taken, how involved I am in my “Faith Group,” and how I have matured. They stated that I had one rule infraction in almost ten years and I was not a trouble maker. They said that they knew that I had prepared myself for re-entering society and they commended me on that. They told me that they would inform my case-manager of their decision and he would pass that information on to me.
Well, those two Parole Board members put their stamp of approval on my parole but, because I was convicted of murder, I have to get a majority vote of the seven member Parole Board. This means I need two more votes from the remaining five members. I knew this was a real possibility. I was “full-boarded” at my last Parole Hearing (by the way, this was my fifth time to see the Parole Board). I even joked with a couple of people that I was in no hurry to get the decision from my case-manager. They couldn’t understand that. For me it was a “Wait-Wait” situation. If the Parole Board members had denied my parole after my Parole Hearing, I would have had to wait for my next Parole Hearing. Since they “full-boarded” me, I have to wait for the full board’s decision. Either way I was prepared to wait.
I know that this is a VERY long blog, but I have two more things to say. Please give me a little more grace.
You might think this is crazy, but I have already started putting together a list of things I am going to need after I am released. I have a list of clothes, a list of identification, a list of hygiene items and I have even started a list of questions to ask my Parole Officer. Perhaps that is forward of me to even think this is my time for release. Somehow I do though.
The last thing I want to say is, I know there are a LOT of you out there praying for me. Volunteers come in here and ask me for all the details. I know how much you care and how important I am to you. This truly humbles me. I can really relate to Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15-17 where he calls himself the worst of sinners. I have truly done it all. My testimony doesn’t tell the half of it. Yet, I am loved by God, and by you. More than that, I have been given so much grace and joy by being allowed into this family of The Most High God. There is no way for me to express my deep appreciation other than to say…
May the Lord Jesus Christ bless each one of you greatly. May His presence flood your lives and may you hear His voice in a new way.
Oh yeah, please do not stop praying for me. I am still waiting for the final decision of the Parole Board. After that I enter the real test where I will desperately need a “prayer covering” starting a life on parole. Thank you again!