Monday, March 9, 2009
Seventy-One Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
The process of release has begun! A week or two ago I was called into my case manager’s office. The case manager in prison is responsible for coordinating release plans as well as classifying each prisoner appropriately. During my nearly 11 months at Taft Camp, I haven’t had too many interactions with my case manager. I was pleased when she called me in to provide an imprint of my thumb. That was necessary for a package she was preparing for halfway house administrators.
Today begins a more official procedure. I am scheduled to attend the first of a series of classes that are called Pre-Release. I’ve heard about the pre-release classes from the other prisoners. From what I have learned about them, they are not exactly profound. The discussions focus on balancing checkbooks, what to wear to a job interview, and how to eat in a restaurant. Although I’ve been in prison for nearly a year, I still remember my lessons in arithmetic; I know that I’m supposed to zip up after using the restroom; and unlike many of the men in prison, I remember that it’s not polite to pick my nose at the dinner table, to talk with a mouth full of food, or to lean over and fart while conversing over the table.
More important than the lessons I will learn through the pre-release class is the symbolic value that comes from seeing my name on the class roster. All of the stars are coming into alignment. Prisoners do not sign up for the courses. The staff members require all prisoners who are approaching release to attend.
I’ve often thought about the irony of the pre-release program. Some of the men with whom I’ll attend classes have been incarcerated for extended periods of time. I know one prisoner who has been locked in various prisons since I was in high school in the early 1990s. The staff is scheduling him for a few hours worth of these pre-release classes now only months before he will return to society. It would seem to me that administrators should have been preparing him for release the day he began serving his sentence.
It wasn’t my place to question the wisdom of corrections. This system has been in existence for a long time before I ever thought about prison. It will be around for a long time after I’m gone. I’m only grateful that I’ve passed through my sentence without incident. In 71 more days I will return home, to my family and community. I look forward to that reunion. My friend Brad Fullmer had predicted that the final months would feel longer because of the intense anticipation. He was correct. I am eager for release. Seventy-one more days to go.