When I first began my time I saw the world differently. I believed people were good at heart despite bad things some might say or do, and I believed that the world as a whole was a kind place. I trusted people. Of course, I was naive back then.
Time has shown me that some people are infact evil, and others really do mean the horrible things that they say and do. It has also shown me that time reveals everyone’s stripes. There are no exceptions.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe in a corrections system claiming to care about rehabilitation, when I regularly witness acts speaking to the contrary. I’m referring to a state parole board that cares nothing about rehabilitation, and more about what is politically easy. I’m referring to a system that views prisoners and their families as industry. I’m referring to a system that’s influenced by a handful of organizations successfully steering the narrative of corrections across the country.
Somewhere within all of this lay rehabilitation. I’ll tell you now, those that rehabilitate themselves do so by choice. They do so despite knowing that their transformation will be paid lip service by the state’s parole board, and they do so knowing that others could care less. And, they do all of this within an environment perfectly designed to prevent such positive outcomes, and they do so against long odds. These men and women should be recognized for their transformations and afforded their due.
This week a man here who had pulled the last 45 years behind bars, and was a reformed and model inmate, was finally granted release. Why did he do such a long time? Terrorists in Europe serve far less time.
Actually, the truth is simple if not sad. This model inmate who had reformed himself, while simultaneously using his time incarcerated to mentor and help others, did all that time because of a broken system of incarceration. Does rehabilitation mean anything? Of course it means something. Just don’t expect rehabilitation to mean anything to anyone beyond yourself, because that’s the reality of it.
I once had a conversation with this inmate, and he said to me, “Christopher, I know I’ll die in prison.” To which I replied, “You don’t know that.”
His response was simple and matter of fact, and he said, “You know that the parole board could care less.” And I had no response because I knew he was right.
The following email was sent to all of us recently. In my 25 years, I’ve never once heard staff positively recognize the passing of an inmate. It’s testament to the impact this inmate had on everyone around him. He was liked by all and he was a reformed man.
From: Chaplain C.
To: All Concerned
Today I received news that inmate Carl Osbourne unexpectedly passed away from natural causes on Monday June 22, 2020 which was also his scheduled day of release after 45 years of incarceration. He was president of the Jaycees (here), he worked as one of the shoe shine guy’s for staff, and he was a recognized mentor to new arrivals (here). He has been a model inmate (here) since it opened in 1987. Please pray for his family and friends as they endure this time of loss.
Carl died while his family awaited him in the parking lot. There’s no need to comment further.
Just think about everything I’ve said today.