Free Bird

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.

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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

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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.


  1. Wow is right! I appreciate your voice and your feelings and to be able to call it as you see and feel it is admirable. I would wholeheartedly agree that are justice system sucks. Having served as a Police Officer in Texas at one time. I know it sucks. And your remorse for a young boy lost and turned over to a system that did neither you or him any justice is a shame. After sustaining a career ending journey, I went back to school at UT and while there I began my thesis on restorative justice versus the traditional old English form of Justice, which sadly we still follow.
    On the part of both you and this man that is getting ready to be released he is as ill prepared for his release as I hate to say it as you feel.
    Our system has done nothing to restore him to our civil society and it has done nothing to ease your pain except to give you time to try to heal without fully doing so, knowing somewhere in the back of your mind that this day would come. It has done nothing for him to bring about that remorse nor to make him a significant and productive of our society.
    The point I am trying to get at is that our current system of justice must change from one of pure punishment to one of restoration, so that both offender and victim feel or become whole and both are restored to a sense of security and productiveness in society.
    I do thank you for sharing your moving words and say I wish you all the best and strength.

    • Thank you for your words and for reading. If you read the other stories in this series you will know I actually volunteer in the Victim Impact program in Texas. I am champion Restorative Justice, yet still I struggle with my relationship between myself and my personal offenders. I suspect all victims of violence, no matter our good intentions have this same struggle, especially where there is no sign of remorse.


      • Val, I know its gotta be tough for all victims and I know all to well of VIP in Texas, when I worked on my thesis paper, I did a full comparative study of Victims Impact Programs, restorative justice here in the states, Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Japan and the First Nations Tribal System in Canada. Having seen how young kids in particular boys are sent into the lions den so to speak, I’ve been a firm believer since that study in 2003 that preemptive and preventive measures to restore young men and women back to society and to give them something worthwhile to strive for would do us as a nation and a people a whole world of good. Leave the punitive system in tack for those harden criminals.

  2. Valentine…You are simply amazing. To be able to express the turmoil you are feeling and still show empathy is beyond me. It is easy to say: forgive and forget. Time heals all wounds. Your are still aching because no real closure has been reached. I wish you the best and hope one day, this will all become a distant/forgotten nightmare.

    • I think my approach is quite different to forgiveness though. It isn’t so much that I have forgiven the actions, truly I don’t think I have. It is only I see beyond the actions to the very real people and the lost dreams. He was so very young, only 15. My heart hurts even as my anger flares. I am only human, my emotions tangle together. I see him in relation to my own children, he is only one year older than my oldest son who has a wonderful life, a wife he loves, a son he adores a career he enjoys. The comparison is sad. That is what I see and feel sorry for. So no I don’t really forgive the actions, I have to live with those actions and the results of them for the rest of my life. But I feel great sadness that his opportunities were also lost.

      Does that make sense?

  3. WOW! I am left speechless. This is very moving. I am touched by how you share his side too. Wondering about his thoughts and feelings when you could have easily just focused on your own. I cannot image how I would feel or cope in your situation. Thank you for taking the time to share.

    • I can’t help but think of him, all of them really. From the moment they were arrested I thought of them as children despite their actions and my fury at what they had done. They were just children. We all lost so much by their reckless actions.

  4. My heart aches for you and whatever I say will be completely inadequate so for now I’ll just pray that your heart finds peace

    • Thank you, but honestly I am okay these days. Some days I am better than other days. Some days I will admit to being a bit angry; but most days I am honestly okay. I have walked through this fire and made peace. But thank you.


  5. Reblogged this on onlinedatingjournal and commented:
    WOW, very moving. Makes you think.

  6. What an injustice.

    • Twenty years is a very long time, I suppose it is all a matter of perspective. I keep trying to tell myself it is enough, but the closer the date looms the more I know it isn’t.

  7. I cannot add any uplifting thoughts any better than the comments before me. Your fury, I understand. I hope you can work through it so it doesn’t become your life. Easy to say, I know but I feel for you and wish you well.

    • Most of my time my fury is directed into things that make sense and actually do some good, thankfully. I would be a waste as a human being otherwise and it would absorb me in some very negative ways. I have learned to have some humor about some of it even, though it is strange humor and comes from a very weird place.

      I am glad you stopped by and thanks for reading.

  8. I have read this twice (I kept it in my inbox to revisit). I may have asked you this already, but do you ever speak with kids? You have a profound message to share.

    • I do. I am part of a group that volunteers through the State Attorney General called Victim Impact. The group reaches into several levels including youth facilities and teens on parole (their parents must participate as well). I use to also work with a group that worked with local area schools and churches but, the schools in particular stopped the program about three years ago. We are trying to work with the the police to get it started back up again for At Risk Youth.

  9. Dear Val,
    Thanks for taking the time to share this with us. I know that this was a painful and debilitating time in your life. However, you are a strong, resilient woman who has come a long way. It is my deepest prayer that you now find the peace that you need to heal your heart. God Bless You, Grant

  10. It feels bad to click the like button, but in fact, dearest sister, I do like it. You put into words what you felt you could never express. I ache for you knowing what this means to and for you.

    To answer your question, no, it is not a fair trade. What has been sacrificed without your consent was far greater than what will ever be offered in return. For, you see, merely withholding life from another does not restore the life taken.

    In your red hot fury, I envision much more brutal retribution. In it, I would find solace. Once it passed, and the reality cascaded again into view, it would be cold and unfulfilling.

    Keep the love in the corners and back and sides of your mind as you wrestle with this concept. So many of us truly do love you. I am here when you need me.


    • Thanks Red….my fury only comes intermittently. I try hard to keep it in the locked portions of my mind. I don’t want to become raging and maniacal based on the actions of others – but then there are those days.

      I know I am loved, just not lovable some days.

      • nearlynormalized says:

        Was Anthony neutered? Was he lobotomized? I hope you have three female Dobermans to protect and serve you.

        • No not neutered I don’t think, but certainly his life was destroyed don’t you think? I have learned over the twenty years since the shooting that though I will live with the results of his choice, at least all the choices were mine. He was just a child, his ability to make good choices for his life were hampered by poverty, ignorance and his own family. My compassion actually extends to him. I am still angry some days, the days I wake up hurting or face more surgery. But still I hurt for him also.


  1. […] the first of the three walked out the prison gates, he had served his sentence. It was a mixed set of emotions I felt, but he had served his entire […]

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