Archive | February 2015

Parole Me Not

Parole Me Not

The probation system is set up to frustrate, discourage, and jam up ex-offenders who truly want to turn their lives around.  It is seriously broken and needs to be overhauled. This is unfortunate because it keeps the majority of ex-offenders (who are minorities), in the “system”—preventing them from securing a law-abiding future. This is not news to anyone but, having seen it first hand, it is nothing short of a bureaucratic bubble waiting to explode in the face of anyone determined to untether themselves from it.

My nephew made his expected “call in” to his parole officer (PO) a few days ago.  As arranged, the officer was to come over and visit my nephew and ensure that he is doing well and following his parole agreement.  Now, my nephew has made his share of mistakes and this was his first incarceration.  Effectively ‘scared straight’, he immediately secured a job after release and has continued to work in the direction of stabilizing his life.  His PO did not show up for that first meeting but instead, informed my nephew that he was no longer his contact and that someone else had been assigned his case.

After not hearing from the new parole officer, he called the State’s Department of Correction’s parole number.  This time, instead of reaching the automated menu (the standard), all he got was a busy signal.  After several attempts over a period of hours, we looked on the internet in an attempt to locate a brick and mortar building that we could visit for his check-in.

The purpose of parole is to keep track of men and women released from prison.  The State must know where the parolee lives and works.  It must ensure that all terms of the agreement are being met and they are staying out of trouble.  This is crucial to prevent repeat offenses.  This isn’t a one-way street because it also helps the parolee stay on track and focus on creating a better (crime free) existence.  It’s a huge burden on the court system, parole board, and other officials to make sure this system runs as expected.  When it doesn’t, the parolee runs a risk of “violating” their parole and returning back behind bars.

The other day I watched my nephew dance this precarious tango with the Department of Corrections.  We were unable to locate any information on the State’s website that pointed us to an address.  In fact, the information that was there was ambiguous at best.   After calling Chicago’s 311 line, I was provided an alternative number and I passed it to my nephew.  He called and was finally provided an address.  Upon arriving there, we found that address was no longer a legitimate location. My nephew eventually remembered another ‘general’ location as a possibility.  So not knowing for sure where we were going or if the location, like the one we’d just visited, would be open or not, we took a chance and went anyway.  Driving down the street, looking for “official” looking buildings, we finally found a Department of Corrections location.

Once inside, he explained his situation and asked to be connected with his new PO.  The employee seemed skeptical that he called the main number (and found it wasn’t operational), but she called his new PO.  Unfortunately, she had to call four bad numbers before she finally reached him.

According the 2010 Census, Illinois reported 130,910 adults on probation and 33,162 people on parole.  After what I’ve witnessed, I have to question how many revocations and absconders were due to individuals not having the proper information to enable them to check in and be compliant. Given the fact that funding for critical programs such as this is stretched to the limit, it is imperative that a solution to this problem be reached that ensures a smoother transition for parolees.  Low cost and small fixes should include at minimum:

  • The website providing updated information such as addresses for parole locations
  • Keeping their main number and menus operational at all times
  • Updating parole officer contact information (4 different numbers is inexcusable)
  • Keeping in-home check-in appointments with parolees

My nephew was diligent in proactively locating his new Parole Officer.  He is working now and maintaining healthy structure and balance in his life—determined not to violate his parole– “Once was enough for me” is his motto.   It is my fervent hope that he does not fall through the ambiguous cracks of the State’s parole system.

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Deep Hurt In The Mind of a Child

I came across a video the other day of a young girl who wrote a song for her father.  Heartbreaking to watch, she spells out the myriad of ways her father has hurt her through his absenteeism.   It’s a heartbreaking reminder that we as a community have so much work to do in order to bridge the gap between our children and their indifferent and absent parents (father and mother).

It’s a painful subject to speak about because I once had to answer my then 15-year-old son who asked me “Why don’t my father want me?”  I was driving at the time he asked me that question and I gripped the wheel in anger and pain.  I explained to him that “I don’t believe that he doesn’t want you.  We had you at a young age and he lacked the maturity and knowledge to be the type of father you need.  I’m sorry that he’s hurt you by not being here for you.”  My son sat quietly, wiped his eyes, and absorbed what I said.  He stated that he understood what I said but he also vowed to never bring a child into the world that he was not financially or emotionally able to take care of.

I wanted to cry because no child should ever have to carry that question in their hearts.  They shouldn’t have to stand in the window crying on Saturday morning for hours because dad promised to pick him up and is once again a no show.  Coming from a two-parent home, I had a hard time dealing with this situation as my son grew up not knowing his father.  He grew up remembering the lies and broken promises. Since the age of 13 he has called him “the sperm donor”.  What a cringing testimony for a child to have regarding a parent!

There’s a study that states Black fathers surprisingly spend more time with their children than originally believed.  In fact, this study states this is the case more than White fathers.  That might be the case but try telling that to the child featured in this video, or mine for that matter.

The ax swings both ways.  There are mothers out there –whom because they can’t let go of the failed relationship—are determined to keep the father away from the child.  They speak negatively about the father to their children and poison their minds against him.  Sure it hurts him greatly but it hurts the child more.  Their anger is so great that it literally blinds them to reason and common sense.

My anger toward my son’s father knew no bounds.  Weeks after the birth of my child he told me “I know you’re going to turn him against me.”  I looked in his eyes and told him “I’ll tell you what… I will never speak negatively about you to him—ever.   Because I want to make sure that if he ever ends up disliking you, it’ll be because of you.”  I am proud to say that I kept that promise.  Even as I drove down the I90 Expressway gripping that steering wheel, wanting to go into a foul-mouthed tirade, I kept my promise.  I had to because my son’s well-being was always more important than my anger.  That’s what moms do—they suck it up and protect their children.

Mother, your child is not a weapon.  You cannot sling them in the face of his/her father to inflict pain.  Look in the mirror and ask yourself why is it so important for you to hurt this man to the detriment of your own flesh and blood?  If he’s not paying child support, take him to court.  In the meantime, put him on the back burner and love on your child.  Don’t bad mouth him.  Half of that man’s DNA is in your kid too. Let it go. We can do better because we have to.

Father, if the mother of your child is keeping you away, you must fight.  We live in a technological age.  If you have time to spend on social media, you therefore have time to research the laws in your state regarding custody and visitation.  You can find lawyers who won’t charge much, will probably do it pro bono, or, you can learn how to be your own Pro Se advocator.  Your child must know that you are trying to be in their lives.  Short of being six feet under, there are no excuses for not being there—none.  They have to know that when they are with you, you are not spending time with your friends or your new lady.  You have to be present.  Your child is hurting and misses you.  Your child is tortured with pain and rejection.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to this little girl because I guarantee you, that’s what is going on in the mind of your child.

Please share this (and anyone else’s similar) story because we’ve got to tell indifferent parents that it’s time to stop being selfish.