an indescribable feeling
Being a prisoner advocate is not for the faint of heart--there are many frustrations, disappointments, controversies and heart-rending moments. Progress often seems a slow and uphill battle. But today--today was one of those rare times when one moment made it all worthwhile. LSA has become something of a go-to place for both lifers and their families facing the uncertainty of an en banc hearing--when a lifer's parole grant is sent back, usually by the Governor, for a second look. It's the one time family and friends can personally and directly address the parole board in support of their lifer--but they only have 2 short minutes to make the case for freedom.
It's hard to put all of that work, emotion, hope and even fear into 2 minutes--but we've developed some tips and suggestions to help get the point across without wasting any of those precious seconds, so many lifers and families are contacting us when they're headed to en banc. For the past few weeks we've been working with a few lifers and/or their families on that situation and two of those men, both at High Desert, came up for that consideration today--would their hard-won parole grants be upheld, or would they have to start the process over?
Today's en banc meeting adjourned about noon today and around 3 pm Lifer #1 called our office, wanting to know how his family could find out the results--and his fate. Would the decision be posted on line? Yes, as a matter of fact, it is posted on the BPH webpages. I'd spoken with him a few times--and he felt comfortable enough to ask me to see if the results were posted yet. Well--that threw me. I certainly didn't want to be the bearer of bad news, if that is what it was, and there had been ferocious opposition to his release by victims in the case. But, if he could face it, I should be able to as well, so after asking him if he was really ready to know the results, I checked.
To my great delight--his grant was affirmed. And I was the lucky person who got to tell him he was really and truly going home. The relief, joy, gratitude, just pure emotion he was feeling was evident in his voice as he thanked me for our help (all we did was provide information--he did all the work). And like a truly rehabilitated lifer, he asked about the other man at HDSP, who was waiting in the background, likely holding his breath....and wonder of wonders, Lifer #2's grant was also affirmed. Another one going home!
It was a wonderous, moving and very human moment, shared with two men I may never meet, but with whom I've been privileged to share a hugely important milestone, opening up a new future for them and reminding me of why we continue to tilt at windmills. And I am grateful to those men for letting me share that moment with them.
It is for these moments that we do what we do, take on the uphill battles, push through the frustrations and shrug off the disappointments. Because it does work--not often well, never easily, and frequently frustrating--but lifers do come home. And today, I got to be part of that awesome moment.