18 May 2010

Ten Day Early Release

Well, this being prison, it had to happen. My last day at prison will be Pentecost Sunday.

Release dates are important in prison. There is a great deal of calculating one's actual date to walk out the gate. I tease the guys about "DOC arithmetic," but it's more true than funny.

Someone standing in court, having been convicted, gets sentenced to a certain number of months. Not years. It's always in months. Why? I don't know. So say that someone gets a sentence of 57 months. Do the math. That's four years and nine months.

Now, if that person actually sat in county jail waiting to go to trial, then went to trial and was convicted, the time in the county jail actually counts toward that 57 month total. Not always day for day. That would depend on the particular county. I've known guys who spent up to two years waiting to go to trial and were able to apply 600-700 days to their sentence. And some who were able to apply much less.

Much of the stress at the Reception Center is caused by county paperwork not catching up so the computer shows a release date that seems much further out than it should be.

And then DOC arithmetic kicks in. Some crimes are eligible for half-time, some for a third. If you're in on a drug sentence and you'll get treatment inside, other calculations must be made.

Eventually the numbers settle down and when I look at a guy on the computer, I see a date that refers to his Earned Release. That phrase means, "This is the earliest he will get out, if he behaves. He could go to his maximum date, but this is the one we'll plan for." That date can be up to ten days earlier than his minimum sentence (all calculations working in his favor). Most of the men I know work pretty hard to make that 10 day early release a reality. If they are going to be on supervision, it means getting housing arranged and support in the community. Sometimes it means asking for a transfer to another county (the current rule is that, no matter where you committed your first crime, you must return to the county of your first felony conviction).

If you were 15, visiting relatives across the state, and took Grandma's car for a joyride, and got convicted of that, guess what, you're going back to No Name County, even if you own a home and your own business and have been living in the big city seven counties away for the last 30 years.

Again, you wait on the confirmation of housing; the community corrections officer has 35 days to check it out, and that could run right up to the Earned Release Date. Someone finally tells you if you get the 10 day early release, and you can really start counting down.

And that, in a way, is what has happened to me. I had my sights set on May 30th, but this coming Sunday will be my last day. Good thing it is Pentecost, because the day is perfect for new beginnings and optimism and summing up the essence of the Good News.

I made up prayer cards for the men as a going-away gift. They are postcard size. On the front is a map of the world with flags marked in different countries. Printed on the front is part of St. Patrick's Breastplate:

May Christ go before you and behind you.
May Christ be on your left and your right.
May Christ be above you and beneath your feet.
In all your ways, may you go with Christ.

On the back:

You are a beloved child of God.
And so is everyone else you meet.

You need only two prayers:
Help me, help me, help me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Choose a spot on the map.
Pray for the people there.

I am praying for you.

In the parlance of the prison, I have four days and a wake up, but there's really only tomorrow in the office, and then Sunday. What an amazing adventure.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

Things are moving right along, for you ! If you see the young man you wrote about that had issues with his Father, please tell him that I am praying for him and his Father. I have a blue sticky note right here next to my computer..Tacoma Inmate & Father. I have seen first hand what separation does to a young man but I have also witnessed reconciliation. God is good, he answers prayers!