Twenty years, that was the entire sentence of Anthony, the youngest of my offenders. Twenty years it seems like yesterday, it isn’t though; it is approximately 7,200 days, 172,800 hours, 10,368,000 minutes.
During this same twenty years, most of us would have worked approximately 4,800 days and 40,000 hours.
I bring this up because it is important, Anthony will be released without supervision on March 13, 2012. Without supervision, means he has served his sentence, paid his debt to society, done his time, thus owes nothing to anyone else and can walk out of the Texas prison system a free man. I ponder this and can honestly say I disagree with the States assessment. He still owes me and mine!
I wish I could feel differently, well maybe I don’t really wish for this. Here is the truth of the matter, Anthony was fifteen when he followed his cousin and a friend into carjacking and attempted murder. By all accounts prior to this act, he wasn’t a bad kid, unfortunately, he was wrapped up into bad acts that nearly cost me my life and certainly cost him. He will be thirty-seven years old, a man grown but with no social skills and by all accounts no education, no work skills; fully institutionalized by the twenty years he has spent in the Texas prison system. He didn’t have to choose this, he was given options that would have seen him out in five years, this was his choice.
At no time during his sentence has he taken advantage of the education options open to him. At no time has he ever gone to the prison Chaplin or the Victim Impact counselor and asked to contact me to apologize for his acts. He will walk free, clearly not remorseful. He will walk free, without skills or support. He will walk free after twenty years inside the walls, fully institutionalized, undoubtedly angry and blaming society rather than himself for the conditions of his life.
How do I know these things? I ask, every single time he comes up for parole I ask the same questions in my letters to the Parole Board, I ask. My conditions for parole are the same; my questions are always the same. How can you consider parole for an unrepentant, unprepared offender? How can you consider parole for an offender who has spent his time doing nothing but blame the victim and society? What will his actions be once within society again?
Though I was prepared for this letter, knew it was coming still my heart beat faster and my eyes blurred with unshed tears. Only twenty years, that is all for my life? Every time I think, I am beyond my original fury, beyond asking that single question, why; I find myself directly back in the path of red hot rage. In fact there are times I am barely able to put
coherent thought to my feelings, they simply exist in that part of my brain that is not fully civilized.
Twenty years for my life, is this a fair trade? Anthony has spent his youth and grown to manhood in the Texas prison system. He has never touched a woman. He hasn’t married nor had children. He has never held a job, earned a living. He hasn’t owned a car or bought a home. Because of one stupid decision on his part all of the things most of us take for granted, he has forgone every choice he might have had about his life. Anthony is one year older than my eldest son, who has all of those things. Anthony is one year younger, nearly to the day, than my husband; who also has had all of these things.
Twenty years, for my life, I wonder if Anthony thinks this has been a fair trade.