Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Going Home from Federal Prison

It's late Tuesday evening and I've just finalized my final day as a prisoner. I've taken my final shower, used the bathroom for the final time, and given away most of my personal belongings. I have two boxes of books that I'm carrying out with me. Other than that, everything else remains behind. I've said good-bye to many acquaintances and wished them all well. I saw genuine joy in some faces, and in others I saw only sadness. I could relate. Many months ago, as I was beginning this term, I too felt as if my release would never come. I had said good-bye earlier to my friend Michael Santos. He has been a huge help to me through this journey, guiding me through my writing projects and apprising me of prison aspects that only a long-term prisoner could know. His release date is not scheduled for several more years, though I will continue to draw upon his writing as I build a consulting career.

In a few more hours the guards will come for me. The feeling is light as if I am floating on some kind of cloud that is about to transport me out. For more than one year I've lived as a prisoner. In a matter of hours, the reverse metamorphosis will begin. Instead of changing from man to insect, I change from insect back to man. I don't know the process exactly, but I know my time as a prisoner is nearly over.

My mother slept at my brother's house so that they could leave Los Angeles early. I expect they'll be waiting in the parking lot before the sun rises, as it's a bit uncertain what time I will walk out. We'll drive to a restaurant in Los Angeles where I'll have a kind of reunion. My sister-in-law Sunny will bring the baby and I'll enjoy the wonders of holding my niece, Clover, for the first time. I'll see my brother, my dad, my stepmother, my stepfather and my friends Sam and Brad. A joyous occasion awaits me in a matter of hours, and I'm as giddy as a boy on his bar mitzvah.

I don't expect I'll miss being a prisoner, although I will miss some of the people I'm leaving behind. I met some staff members who treated me with courtesy, and I met many prisoners from whom I learned. This is it for me, however, as I just heard the guard call my name.

My next report will be as a man of the world.

Justin Paperny

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