[by Susan Ashline]
Jon called me last night.
He’s less than two weeks from getting out of prison and has been told nothing concrete about anything from anyone.
He has no place to live and hasn’t been told where he might be placed.
He worries his parole officer will not allow him to have a vehicle, which would hamper him from finding employment.
He’s been given different dates for his release.
His counselor at New York’s Mid-State prison, Larry Zick, apparently told him he’s allowed to have someone pick up him on the day of his release; then told him he’ll have to take a bus to his parole officer’s office… wherever and whenever that may be. Picked up or take bus – Zick simply doesn’t know.
Jon’s attorney, the one he paid $12,000 to do his restitution hearing and a motion almost a year ago, has been largely absent. I’ve tried to stay out of it, but a good part of my book, A Jacket off the Gorge, deals with failures in the justice system, and I have a hard time ignoring that an attorney is neglecting any client, let alone one who paid him $12,000. The whole “voice for the voiceless” thing – I’ve felt obligated to intervene a number of times. My last contact was more than a month ago. I emailed Jon’s attorney on his behalf, because I’d learned the decision on his restitutaion hearing had come down three weeks earlier. Jon, of course, had been waiting to hear. The attorney then emailed the decision and said to tell Jon he was sending a big packet of information. There’s an affidavit Jon has been waiting to sign that his attorney promised to get to him months ago.
As of last night, Jon has heard nothing from this attorney – no calls, letters, visits; affidavit never came. Months go by with no communication.
I am resisting the urge to rip into this attorney. I don’t want to look like a jerk. But I’m realizing I am not the one who looks like a jerk here.
Speaking of jerks… After learning I wrote a book about Jon, which includes his lawsuit against Mid-State Correctional Facility, Mid-State staffers arbitrarily added my name to his parole release conditions, stating he would not be allowed to communicate with me. Isn’t that convenient?
I spent months contacting everyone involved (Superintendent Mathew Thoms, Ronald Meier, Ann Joselyn, Larry Zick, DOCCS attorney Kevin Kortright, DOCCS investigators Scott Apple and Keila Bowens, the NY Parole Board), stating I do not consent to my name being on that list. Jon sat with his counselor, Zick, who apparently told him he doesn’t remember adding my name in the first place, and that someone may’ve walked into his office while he was doing the form and distracted him, and that’s how it wound up there. Jon also wrote the parole board, as well as filed a prison grievance to get my name removed.
Let’s pull all the support beams from any inmate being released from prison and laugh while they crumble (*sarcasm). More likely, whine about the fact they slipped up, committed crimes again, and wound up back in the system. Throw your hands up, shrug your shoulders and act in disbelief as to how this happened.
After being sent around in circles, no one doing their job, and no one getting anything done, Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York took up the case to get my name removed.
Ironically, the one attorney who has done more than anyone else is the attorney not getting paid a penny from Jon. (But you, the tax payer, is now stuck paying this. You can thank Mid-State staffers Ronald Meier, Ann Joslyn, et. al. for failing at their jobs).
Thank you, attorney Sophia Heller, for your hard work and tenacity. Heller has been in contact with the Parole Board legal counsel, demanding my name be removed and stating there is no cause for it to be there. Unbelievably, the Parole Board lawyer wrote her erroneously stating my name had been removed in April. In fact, it had not been removed. The very same condition was listed as an amendment, but restated – different words. And now Heller is forced to go at them again.
And this is how the criminal justice system goes.
And we all want better citizens and less crime, but the state employees want to retain power, collect their fat paychecks (that you pay out), and put up roadblocks to get people to a better place.
Like it or not, most of these inmates are released at some point. Isn’t it better for us if we help them rather than isolate them from social circles and take away their ability to find viable employment?