Here’s my 2021 in review. I started ’21 at the Omaha Correctional Center having just recovered from a mild undiagnosed case of Covid19 and having completed the programming required for me to be considered for parole. However, I had to wait until March for the Parole Board (PB) to review me. The day of the review, I was scheduled after three guys who had each been to the Regional Center (the mental hospital) so I was a bit worried. The average review took 5 minutes until the guys right before me. One went just a little over, maybe 7. The next went 10. And the one right before me took
a full 15 minutes so I was sweating bullets when I went in thinking they had scheduled all the “problem” guys in a block.

There were only 2 members of the PB there and one was the PB Chair, Ms. Cotton, but the whole time she was busy typing away on her tablet, I assume taking notes from the guy before me. The other PB member lead my review and was very friendly. He started with some questions about my offense and how I had spent my time since my last review a year ago but by the end I was telling him about all the benefits of taiji and recommending he look into the group that used to practice at the Papillion community center. *chuckle* One of the staff sitting in the back of the room ran into me the next day and said that after I left Ms. Cotton has questioned whether friendliness and positive attitude were just an act that I put on for the PB. Luckily, the staff member knew me from my unit where I had encouraged her to start doing yin yoga which she started doing with her kids. So she told them that what they saw of me was exactly how I was on the yard every day. *smile* They scheduled me for a “hearing” (meaning they are likely to grant me parole) at my first parole eligibility date (PED) in March of ’23. *cheer*

Also, during the first quarter of the year, I prepared my Brief for the NE Supreme Court over NDCS’s miscalculation of what is called 191 good time. Writing the brief has to be done to very detailed specifications put out by the Sup. Crt. and I could never have done it without significant collaboration from my dad. *hug* Through many emails and long hours on the phone we were able to prepare an extremely professional, organized, and well researched Brief and Reply Brief. And most importantly, we got them filed on time. It was actually the state who had to keep asking for time extensions…and kept getting them. *sigh* Even though the briefs were all in early in the year, the Sup. Crt. didn’t schedule oral arguments until Sept. 3rd. *another sigh*

Once I had my official 2 year parole hearing set, I could be reclassified for Community Custody (Work Release) but, NDCS being a government bureaucracy, it took 2 months to get the paperwork done. Eventually, I got my “bus ticket” (as a transfer order is called in here) to Community Corrections Center Lincoln (CCCL), which is exactly where I had hoped to go to be close to family and friends. The problem was that there is a waitlist to get to Community Corrections that is typically around 200 long and I knew one guy who had waited 9 month before getting moved. I wasn’t going to let things take that long so after 3 months I started pushing from in here to no effect. But, more importantly, I had my parents contact all the assistant/deputy director positions at NDCS asking why it was taking so long. It’s a good thing they made inquiries because a week later they got an email saying that “due to a clerical error” my name had been removed from the list. NDCS put me back on the waitlist and 2 weeks later, by the end of Aug., I was moved. Now imagine if I didn’t have my parents to check on my behalf. I might not have been moved for 9 months…or longer. *rolls his eyes*

It was a big adjustment when I arrived at CCCL. At first, because the rooms are 8 man rooms, like at OCC, but they are significantly smaller. There’s about 8 sq. ft. of unencumbered floor space per person, so you are right on top of one another. The idea is that half of the population is supposed to be out of the facility at work all day but evenings and weekends are way overcrowded. As I had 18 months to go before my parole hearing, I couldn’t go out on Work Release yet and get a job. You can only do Work Release once you are within a year of your hearing. Until then, you have to be on Work Detail and do an institutional job. That meant I had 6 months of Detail and couldn’t go on Work Release until March of ’22.

A friend had told me that one of the best Detail jobs was to work as a Cornhusker State Industries (CSI) Clerk in their warehouse because it actually paid an hourly wage (still only about $1/hr) and allowed access to a computer with MS Office on it so I could brush up my skills. During my orientation I asked the officer about the CSI clerk position and she asked how many write ups I had. When I said none, ever, she said she’d start the paperwork to send me to CSI. *woohoo* The next day, however, my unit case worker pulled me into the office and told me she had changed my job assignment and was sending me to be a porter for the Property Corporal, Ms Hanes. That meant I would be working in the facility everyday, instead of going out to the CSI warehouse, that I would only make $3.78/day, and that I would not be able to brush up on my MS Office skills. *grrr*

I had to start the porter job and do it for at least a month before I could change to the CSI job. During that month CSI kept trying to get my boss to release me to go work there but she wouldn’t. She liked that I was a quick learner, organized, had a strong work ethic, and that I would be on Detail for quite a while. As I worked in the position I realized there would be some benefits to it. Most importantly, that all the staff would get to know me and see me working in a position of trust which would make them far less likely to ever write me up for petty stuff. As my primary goal is to earn parole at the earliest date, anything that reduces my risk of MRs (misconduct reports) is more important than a job that increases my employability during Work Release.

Additionally, Candace (Cpl. Hanes’ first name) tried her best to entice me to stay in the job. The biggest perk she could offer was to facilitate moving me to THU (temporary or transitional housing unit) which I took her up on. It is a 100-man “privilege” dorm that was built in ’17 to help alleviate the overcrowding. You have to give up your TV to move out here as there are no cable jacks and it is one big room with 100 steel (not spring) bunks. Because virtually everyone out here is on Work Release, the alarms start going off around 2:30 AM and crescendo around 4:30. Those are the downsides but it is outside of the main building, next to the parking lot and doesn’t have a fence around it or its yard at all. It is also quieter and, oddly, less crowded that the tiny 8-man rooms in the main building. Another big privilege is that we get to order food for delivery. *big smile* So when they serve something glutenous, like breaded fish, I order out. I’ve had gluten free pizzas, gyros, ribs and burnt ends, and Chinese today. *yum* Overall, it was the best move to keep the porter job and move to T dorm.

I arrived here in late Aug. and had my oral arguments to the NE Sup. Crt. for the 191 case on Sept. 3rd. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been here a month yet, so they wouldn’t let me go out of facility on a pass to present my case in person. I had to video in while the state was able to argue in person but I still kicked his ass. *grin* We each got 10 minutes and during mine I was never asked a single question by any justice. The state didn’t get 30 seconds into their arguments before the justices started interrupting him with pointed questions. After 6 minutes answering questions on the first of 3 topics, he tried to move on to the 2nd point but a justice told him he had to address the 3rd point, what I called Inverted Sentences (when you become parole eligible after you discharge), before he ran out of time. He never got to cover point 2, and went 2-3 minutes overtime answering aggressive questions on how was it logical that their position led to inverted sentences. I am very confident that I have won the case but the Court takes its time to write an opinion that sets law so they haven’t released their decision yet. If I win I could be parole eligible by Nov. of ’22 instead of Mar. of ’23.

In Oct. I was able to start taking advantage of the biggest benefit of being at CCCL: the passes. While on Detail you can get two 4-hour personal needs passes a month, and 1 religious pass a week. These are passes to go out into the community for some planned personal or religious activity. You need a Sponsor who has gone through a training class and been vetted but then they can check you out to go shopping, go eat, go to a movie, or whatever as long as it doesn’t involve going to a personal residence. McKarious had not been approved as a Sponsor yet by my first pass but I got an at-large Sponsor from a program I had taken to take me out. My first pass was to go see the 3rd annual Art From The Inside show which I had help coordinate at my friend Jeri’s studio. Then we went to dinner at Lazlo’s in the Haymarket. I arranged for several friends to meet me at Jeri’s studio and join me for dinner. It felt so good to just hang out and chat with my friends in a non-institutional setting, and of course having the spinach and artichoke dip at Lazlo’s was amazing. *smile*

Since then McKarious and my parents have all been approved as Sponsors and I have gone out to celebrate my father’s birthday at Misty’s for prime rib, seen two movies, and hung out at the Mill (a coffee house). This coming month I am going to start using the weekly religious passes to attend taiji practices that are held at a church. *grin* Some guys complain about the restrictions here, like the strict itinerary you have to stick to on passes, but I see it as SOOO much better than even a minimum security prison like OCC was. Once I am on Work Release I can start earning furloughs which are from 12 to 48 hour passes where you can go home. *big smile*

By March of this year I will be eligible for Work Release. They put you on “job seek” for 2 weeks, by the end of which you are expected to have a job, otherwise they demote you back to Detail. Two weeks isn’t a lot of time to find the kind of job I want to have so I am going to circulate my resume to places looking for an office-type position or a Paralegal job starting in Feb. with a cover letter explaining I won’t be available until March. In a worst case scenario, I’ll take any job at some store downtown and work that while still applying to more substantial jobs. Unfortunately, they do not give us any kind of computer access here, even just to do job seek. So, that will make a continued job hunt more complicated. I also hope to refresh my computer skills once I can go on home furloughs. Than I can start looking for jobs closer to my profession. *smile*

There’s always more detail on my blog at unlockthemind.com

Let’s all hope that 2022 is even better than 2021 for all of us. *big smile*