Wednesday February 25, 2009
Eighty-Three Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
It was one year ago today that a federal judge sentenced me to serve an 18-month prison term. I didn’t know what that meant as I had not had previous experience with criminal sentences. Although I had been going through various stages of the system for quite some time as a consequence of the standard procedure, that background did not prepare me for the finality of a prison term.
As most people remember birthdays, or other moments of significance in their life, I’ll always remember standing in that courtroom on February 25, 2008. When the judge said 18 months, I turned to my right and saw my mother. She was crying, dabbing at tears with a handkerchief. My legs were quivering. I had to pee.
My close friend Sam Pompeo rushed angrily out of the courtroom. He did not see the justice in such a lengthy term. Brad Fullmer, my other close friend, angrily confronted one of the attorneys who urged the judge to sentence me severely. He and Dana Haber stayed with me that night to console me after the sentence was imposed.
I never really expected until that moment that I would be going to prison, and of course, I had no idea what it would be like. Everyone loses at least one year of their lives. Don’t they? My father just held me and said everything would be fine, assuring me that when I came home, it would be as if I never left.
Now, with more than 10 months of prison behind me, and fewer than three months of prison ahead, I realize that I underestimated the positive that could come from this experience. The year I spent in prison was not a loss. In many ways it was a blessing, an opportunity for me to strengthen aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed.
As a consequence of the time I’ve served inside prison boundaries, I’ve really come to appreciate the meaning of that cliché holding that life is about the journey. The time away from family, friends and community has helped me realize I have a role to play in society. Life isn’t only about what is happening to me, or taking advantage of privileges I’ve been given. I have responsibilities and while in prison, I’ve come to terms with the relationship I have to the broader society. I feel good about my readiness to show what I’ve learned through those experiences in prison. Doing so will make a meaningful contribution to society and I’m looking forward to it. Although I never would have expected to emerge with these feelings, I now know that my time in prison was not wasted at all.