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.

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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.

When Lightening Strikes

If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you. T.S Eliot

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I found that quote years ago while sitting in yet another doctor’s waiting room. It stuck with me. It had been eighteen months since the shooting and I was waiting to find out if I could stop wearing the hard brace. This was my third and hopefully last time with this piece of ugly that wrapped itself around my neck digging into my collarbone and leaving permanent bruises on my shoulders. There were days I felt like  one of the Giraffe Women of Burma.

Still Mad at the World

Up to this point, I had seen more doctors than I could remember. I had already had eight surgeries including the removal of the bullet in my

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forearm which was a very public event attended by two police officers who took the intact bullet as evidence, that was a treat. I had seen the useless psychologist who specialized in victims of violent crime, his contribution to my recovery was an hours’ worth of, repeat after me, “you have a right to feel that way.” Well hell, I knew that when I got here fool, which unfortunately slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it, my bad. He suggested he might not be the best person to help me, really you think.

Now here I was, sitting in my Neurosurgeons office thumbing through a magazine and there it was my epiphany.

Wow, just Wow

What was I going to do with my new circumstances? I couldn’t change them; there wasn’t a single thing I could do that was going to undo what happened. The real questions I had to ask were these  –

Are you going to be a Victim?

Are you going to be a Survivor?

Or are you going to be something more, are you going to be Victorious?

The answer was clear, getting there not so clear. The path wasn’t at all obvious or straight,

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not then and truthfully not ever. In fact, even now, nearly twenty years later, I find myself on roads filled with potholes, switchbacks and what feel like insurmountable steep climbs.There are days I want to pull over to the side of the road of my life, curl up and give up. It isn’t fair I think in the back of my mind, that small voice whispers to me, ‘just lay down, someone will come along shortly’.  The truth is, though I have many wonderful people in my life, always have had, the only one that will come along is me. The only person that can force that next step is me, even when it hurts like hell it is still me.

From Victim to Survivor to Victorious

There is no life without bumps in the road, I accept that my life is no different from others. My bumps might be different they are still just bumps. I have been fortunate in my journey of discovery and recovery to meet some amazing people with similar bumps as mine, they taught me about getting up in the morning, breathing through pain, letting go of survivor guilt and most importantly getting too happy.

The Original Story

Crime, Punishment and Victims

Charge

Birth Date

Sentence Date

Release Date

First Parole Eligibility

Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 12/14/1975 8/12/1992 3/13/2012 3/13/1997
2 Counts Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 06/18/1976 4/13/93 3/09/2027 07/12/2000
2 Counts Att Cap Murder w/ DeadlyAgg Robbery w/Deadly 03/05/1976 3/08/93 3/05/2027 3/12/2000

The above is not random information designed to entice. This morning my friend and fellow Blogger Red called to ask permission to use information she knows about me as part of her on-going discussion (Reds Crime & Punishment). Of course, I am always happy to contribute, but thought in the interest of disclosure I would provide some of the facts.

Nearly Deadly Night

A night like any other really, the story, in a nutshell, I stopped for cigarettes and gas on my way home from work, it was February 7, 1992,  Benbrook, Texas a suburb of Ft. Worth. From there my nightmares begin, you can read the entire story at the link above, suffice to say my life was changed forever by three teenagers. Carjacked at gunpoint, held for over two hours I knew my life might end and I wasn’t ready. Ultimately, I was shot three times, twice through the neck and once a defensive wound in my forearm.

Funny the things you think about when you believe you might die. After the smoke had cleared and the tail-lights were down the road as I lay curled around myself first thinking how much bullets really hurt when they enter your body, I thought ……they took my brand new pack of cigarettes and just how unfair that was.

1992 UTWatch_ Texas Prison Overcrowding

Giving me Pause

The three young men involved were caught because they made stupid mistakes first in their choice of victims, we survived. Their stupidest mistake though was in committing their crimes in the first place, destroying their lives before they ever started. In all three cases, each of them had one parent serving time; in the case of one both parents were behind bars. This would make them the second generation to share the yard. One of their grandmothers said to the DA, please don’t send him away he is a good boy he thought they were only going to steal cars.

Huh?

In fact, he ended up turning evidence against the other two, he had a good school record, had never been in trouble before this; it is likely he didn’t know what was to come of that night. He tried to stop them but couldn’t and in the end had to back down, how is that for the ultimate peer pressure. This young man ended up with a twenty-year sentence because he thought he was going joy riding.

They Got Time but I Got Life

I will not go into the details here of either the short or long-term damage to my body

Huntsville State Prison – Wikipedia

or soul from this incident. The three offenders will someday walk free, I will never be free and it is extremely likely my life will be shortened by up to twenty years because of their actions and choices. This sentence provides a very different perspective.

I am often asked if I forgive them, the short answer is NO.

Victim Impact

Since I have been back in Texas, I have been privileged to volunteer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in a program called Victim Impact. I wish they would call it something different, but I understand the meaning behind it and my involvement has provided me both insight and opportunity to truly think about the criminal justice system we have today. I have met some amazing people, other Victims also Volunteers, staff members and even on occasion some of the program participants . Heard some heart wrenching stories that make me want to weep, even when hearing them for the tenth time.

The program takes us, the victims inside of State and Federal prisons, State jails, juvenile facilities and parole groups to talk to offenders about what crime does to us how it affects us. The offenders in the prison and jail programs are volunteers who must be approved, they want to be there and it isn’t an easy program. They don’t get a gold star on their jacket for finishing it.

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How I see it

I am not easy and some who hear me speak are offended by my lack of forgiveness. My only response is there will never be forgiveness until there is remorse and reconciliation it isn’t a right and cannot be demanded. My offenders have been up for Parole more than once each, I have been there each time fighting to keep them exactly where they are, through letter writing campaigns and petitions. Their crimes against me and against my family as the extended victims were brutal. I want every day, every hour, every minute the state promised me in the sentence handed down.

Crime and punishment are abstract until they are real. I believe strongly we have a system  that doesn’t serve us properly. We have spent far too long warehousing the non-violent

Garden of Angles dedicated to murder victims

and returning the violent to a society that is not ready for their enhanced skills. We have grown prison populations that include generations, it should be a national shame rather than a source of revenue and pride. Nevertheless, as a victim of a senseless violent crime I am thankful I can participate in the processes that ensure fair sentences meted out and completed when appropriate.

Some think me hard, others think I am vindictive demanding my pound of flesh. The truth of it is I don’t believe in forgiveness as a right and I don’t believe those that do me and mine harm should be able to demand their freedom. They caused immeasurable and have never said those simple words “I am sorry”. So why should I ever lift my demands they serve their sentences.

I will continue this some other time. There is far more to discuss on this subject.

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