“Denied vs Approved”
Something that I see on a daily basis, and hits home more than anything else is the posts from those of you on the outside awaiting answers from the Parole Board, which effects your loved ones on the inside. It can be the best of times or the worse. It can give so much hope or deflate your hope like a balloon that has burst. I believe you on the outside are more effected than we were on the inside. Let me try to explain.
See when I was serving my 10 years for aggravated robbery in the state of Texas for the most part I was hopefully, but realistic. We on the inside knew the score because we saw it on a daily basis by the way the parole board voted on the other inmates. Now please be aware my case may be different from all others, yes in ways the same, but all cases should be taken different. I saw parole 3 times and was given 2, 2 year setoff’s and then granted parole with 1 year left.
Now my story takes an ugly turn, but I must go back in the past a minute. I was guilty of my crime and signed a plea bargain for those 10 years, I had no priors at all. At first the District Attorney in Harris County came at me with 30 years, I said no. Then about a month later they came at me with 20 years, again I decline their generous offer. I finally settled in on the 10 which to this day I still think was better than going to court.
I stayed in Harris County a little over 10 months and then was shipped off to TDC, we on the inside never called it TDCJ. My first real ID unit was Allred up in Iowa Park, Texas. Hell Hole #1 in the journey of many more Hell Holes. Allred was not bad as units go except for a lot of youngsters who seem to cause the majority of problems. Of course there were gangs as there are on every unit. I mostly sat with of bunch of “Old Schools” and tried to learn the ways of becoming a good, respectful inmate.
For the most part that lasted about 4 hours. I took a shower on 3 row, (3rd floor) and was attacked by 3 individuals, I was stabbed in my chest and had a few cuts all over. The stab wound to my chest was not deep or really that bad, but I still touch the 2 inch scar today. A kind of reminder of how lucky I was. See what the attackers didn't know was 3 against 1 in a very small shower stall kind of makes it really 1 on 1. I was lucky enough to hit the “Stabber” in the face breaking his nose and causing a hell of a lot of blood.
Seeing this the other 2 guys, I guess decided I wasn't worth the trouble and ran down the stairs. Now during this time I remember hearing footsteps running up the metal stairs. This I really thing is what scared the other 2 off. Lesson on #1, on some units, some people should not take showers on the 3rd row. Well of course the cops/guards/screws came running in about 15 minutes later and took me and the guy with the busted nose, who was yelling “That mother f….attacked me” to the infirmary, after being placed in handcuffs.
To those who have never been stabbed or cut in the chest let me tell you, you bleed a lot. Worse than the actual wound. So in typical TDC fashion I was given a major case and shipped off the unit to Hell Hole #2 Darrington. I have never saw rats as big as the ones I saw in the pipe chase behind the walls in my cells. Of course I was put on restriction and put in solitary for about 7 days if I remember right.
I stayed on that unit only about a month and was shipped to Dominquez which is a transit unit. While in Hell Hole #3 I caught an escape case, boy listen to this story, and it’s all true. I went to store one day with a buddy who had a cane. So after we made store I said I would carry one of his bags so he could use the cane. We got to the pod door and I waited for the cop/guard/screw to buzz us in. While waiting I noticed a sign on the perimeter fence that read “No hostages beyond this point, offenders will be shot.”
So jokingly I said “Screw that sign, let’s jump the fence with all this store and go live in the woods for a while.” I regret that sentence to this day. The cop heard every word over the speaker box and they took me seriously. I got 30 days in the hole, the watermelon and cantaloupe was the best thing about that time, over 300 good days taken from me which really don’t mean anything to someone with an aggravated crime, and for the rest of my time in TDC I would be sent to Maximum Security units only.
So in saying all this, my situation I’m sure is why I got 2, 2 year set offs. Because they brought up the stabbing and the “escape case” every time. Right or wrong, and that is the only cases I got besides minor BS, the rest of the way. So my 3rd parole hearing came and gone and I was informed about a month or so later that I had been granted parole. Here is where it really gets ugly, not so much for me but for my family.
After telling all my loved ones that I would be coming home soon they took my parole away for an old robbery case in 1999. It was during all the other robberies. They said it was in Chambers County which to this day I know I never committed a crime there let alone a robbery. I filed and tired everything trust me. I asked why they were not aware of that already and just now found out about it during this parole hearing. Deaf ears is all I found.
So I went back and forth a few times to the law library and filed for a quick and speedy trail and for them to come bench warrant me to Chambers County so I could take care of it ASAP. I knew I had less than a year left on my 10 year sentence and the last thing I needed was for them to try to get more time out of me. I also filed a “Statue of Limitations” on that charge.
So off I went to Chambers County and sat for about 2 months, awaiting a hearing with the judge. I took about 60 seconds and actually got to hear “This court is sorry Mr. Smith”. Statute of Limitations is a wonderful thing. The case was thrown out and I was returned to my unit, Hughes unit. I wrote the parole board as did a few family members and to no avail the decision to revoke my parole although the case was thrown out stood.
But I was very lucky due to the fact I was going home in a matter of months regardless. There was a time when I was told I was granted parole with less than a year left I wanted to tell them so bad to shove that piece of paper somewhere and I would suck up the tax payers money some more, after all as a tax payer myself for over 25 years in the state of Texas I thought I could use the free ride too lol. But then thought what if something happened to a loved one on the outside and I could have been there. Every day in the Freeworld is worth it no matter what.
Going back to what I was saying about how you on the outside and we on the inside view parole. See on the inside I think we are around it all the time, the talk, the parole talk with other inmates, what happened to them and their cases. So we see things with a more cynical view and not much hope. Yes we have hope too, but not like you all outside. For the most part, and I say most part, aggravated inmates do not, do not make their first parole. Yes there are those who do, but I’m speaking on average and what I saw in those 10 years. I had seen guys with no cases miss parole while those with cases make it. Another thing and please listen to what I am saying, and this comes from wisdom and experience of the inside. You the loved ones may not always be told the truth about what your love you is doing inside.
What I mean in regards to cases and what really happened. He or she may want to hide you from the truth to not hurt your feelings. I know as bad as it sounds I hide a lot from my loved ones while in prison. Most guys inside just want to do their time and hopefully go home soon, others later, and some never. Some guys are just bad and every day is a game and drama, a hustle here and there. Some, although the rules are childish and dumb to many of us are the rules and when broken you get busted.
Smoking, drinking, getting Tattoos, we all knew that was a big no no, but some did it anyway. Hell I ran the gambling tickets on most units, but was lucky enough to never get a case. I would say all the cops knew we did these things and for the most part let it go on. The cops just didn’t like it flaunted in their faces and at times we were bad about that. Fresh tattoos have a very red mark, so cover it up, a lot didn't and walked down the bowling alley showing off their new work. Homemade hooch smelled big time in the day room, especially when burping it, but they did it anyway. Cigarettes would be smelled the minute a cop entered the day-room, but again they did it anyway.
I was no angel inside, I broke the rules many a time. I would buy stuff out of the kitchen or mule it back myself. Mule is a term we used to smuggle stuff back. I sold jackets out of the garment factory when I worked there or real good socks. Like I said most of these rules were small and petty, but now the less they are the rules that could get you in trouble and effect your parole.
With all this being said it is you the loved ones on the outside that I think are hit the hardest when a “Denied Parole” comes down. I am not saying don’t hope and pray, please continue that for yourself, your loved ones, and the person on the inside. For the most part the guy/girl inside is stronger than you think. It is you he or she is worried about most, trust me, I have been there and went through it all.
It hurts me honestly each time I read a post about someone not making parole, I can feel it and see it in your posts, because they mirror the letters I got from loved ones each time I informed them I didn’t make it. I was lucky compared to a lot of guys in that I only had a 10 year sentence, but in prison anytime away from family and friends and locked up is a lot. I hate to be brutally honest but some of you in your hearts know it will be a long time before he or she comes home.
Stay strong and stay your course whatever that may be. Listen to others, but read between the lines also. Stay positive, but be honest with yourself. Stay hopeful especially with your children who want daddy or mommy home soon. As we speak today some of you have received good or bad news lately. It is a double edged sword seeing those posts, hell it’s worse than that. I have never met really any of you, but can say I have never “met” so many strong people. Wife’s and mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmas, and of course husbands and fathers, brothers, sons and papa’s. Take everything you hear from everyone with a grain of salt. Nothing is how it appears, there is always another side to the story or missing pieces to the story. Don’t ever sell yourself short, and stay true to your feelings. Most of you have that gut feeling that tells you when something just doesn't sound right.
I myself have at times questioned some of your stories, some of the things I have read, and truthfully some doesn’t add up. I hope in no way did I seem mean or uncaring. That was not my intent. My intentions are to at times “Wake” some of you up if that sounds right. Me saying that maybe to some, sound harsh, but I just want some of you to understand fully the situation you may be in. I know some of you are saying right now “I do understand dummy and you don’t”.
I’ll leave you all be for now and want to say if any you want to visit my Blog which contains all my writings on prison and life in general as well as a few fiction stories I was working on in prison just message me and I’ll give you the link. I am not expert in any field. I talk on my 10 years in prison and as honestly as I can. If any of you have further questions or comments you can message me also.
When I left prison on August 26, 2011 a piece of me stayed there, I also took a piece of prison home with me. At times I put it in my back pocket, while other times I hold it in my hand and think. It is never really too far away from me. As we speak the parole boards are reviewing someone’s file, in some cases I believe that really do care and look at the file, the inmate’s history, but in others I think they could care less. I had a few parole members come talk to me during my time and each time they sounded so hopeful.
They all asked the same type questions “Are you sorry for what you did”, “Do you have loved ones who will help and support you”, “Why should the state of Texas let you go”. I remember talking with a man by the name of Hightower twice one time twice on the same hearing about 2 weeks apart, and once 2 years before on another hearing. So friendly and nice, even shock my hand. But the whole time I got this feeling that this was a waste of time.
But for some it isn't a waste of time and for some of you reading this your loved one will be coming home this year or at least get an “approved” decision this year, sadly for some a “Denied”. Again stay strong if not only for yourself. Stay busy, keep a journal/dairy to read to yourself about what you are going through. Your thoughts and feelings, your hopes and dreams. When mad and angry, when frustrated write yourself about it and read it later, trust me it helps, it helped me. Till the next time. Your mind is strong, keep it that way.