A miserable week – especially if you are incarcerated. Here’s an update about my buddy ‘Tom’. ‘Tom’ is not his real name, but there may come a point in this story that we reveal his name. He has given me permission to share his story with you.
Tom is a recovering alcoholic. He admits he cannot handle the effects of alcohol. He becomes violent. This has been manifested from time to time in his life, and has spent just over six years doing federal time to pay for his mistakes. He dosen’t drink. Won’t drink in fact, because he knows how dangerous it would be for him to do so. In two weeks he will have seven years of sobriety under his belt. Good one buddy!
His parole is completed on May 4, 2010 and he will be a free man: no conditions, no parole office, no restrictions – he has been looking forward to his freedom for a while now. But right now, now now, he is in 23 hour lockdown in jail with no rights and no freedom. I went to visit him. He has not been sleeping or eating well. He is depressed and discouraged. He hasn’t been taking the meds offered to him because he is afraid. Unshaven and unkempt, his orange overalls provide a constant reminder that he is a ‘prisoner’, an ‘offender’, a ‘public threat.’ It’s a stigma that hangs on, not just because of where he is or what he’s wearing, but what he is being told. The constand reinforcing of the negative things, the failures and mistakes in his life are an albatros around his neck.
I contacted Corrections Services Canada: I waited seven business days for Tom’s parole officer to return the several messages left both on her cell phone and her work number. It was only after I contaced the Director of CSC that the P.O. called me – and I waited five business days for the Director’s return call. I’m not the best at returning calls sometimes, but well, I don’t know, I would say that someone rotting in jail is a priority.
I have written and witnessed permission from Tom for disclosure of his file. To date, the CSC is ‘not sure’ they will be able to release this to me. We’ll see about that. I have asked for an appointment to discuss Tom’s case, when I return to the office on the 12th. I have requested an appointment for that morning.
For now Tom is ‘inside’. There is undoubtedly more to the story, there always is. My lawyer and the investigator agent who was kind enough to look into this case, have both told me how the process works: the P.O. has 30 days in which to investigate the accusations against Tom and deliver a review; then the Parole Board has an additional 90 days to investigate and arrive at a decision. One hundred and twenty days. Four months. All the while my friend is in 23 hour lock down. By the time the decision is delivered, his parole will be finished and on May 4, he walks.
Then I find out that people who can make a decision, do an investigation, bring some kind of resolution are ‘on holidays’ (that’s what I heard first from CSC) and ‘on course’ (second ‘reason’ given – it is year end and budget money – well use it or lose it ??) – all the while Tom is wondering what’s going on.
Welcome to the ‘system’.