The following is an open letter on someone`s experience in dealing with the frustrating experience of working with the prison system for a successful release from prison after a long prison sentence. It does not reflect the views or position of ZLG, though ZLG supports anyone who may be facing such a situation.
Over the course of more than a dozen years in federal prison, I`ve done everything I could possibly do to improve myself. I`ve taken every drug program they offer, both residential and non-residential programs. I`ve been clean and sober since the say I got arrested, no easy feat with drugs and alcohol easier to get in prison than on the street. I`ve taken all of the BOP`s most intensive treatment programs, there`s nothing left for me to take. And I`ve tutored and mentored in all of these programs.
I`ve also taken every opportunity to educate myself. I`ve completed college classes to become a certified paralegal, and I secured a respectable career after release with a law firm. I`ve also completed numerous continuing education classes and taught many of them several times. I was the continuing education organizer at one prison for years.
I`ve never been in trouble in prison, either — at all. That`s not easy with staff just waiting to hit someone with any vague rule they can. In fact, I got a commendation for assisting a staff member one early morning. I`ve had staff say they would trust me with their car, house, one even asked me to get her purse and said she trusted me with it (I refused to touch it!).
While some would say that I`ve proven myself to be a better person and I would positively contribute to society, you`d never know it by looking at what the BOP has been doing to keep me from releasing to a place that would help me stay on the right path.
Instead of supporting my release to an area where I`ll have the best chance of successful reintegration into society after a long prison sentence, the government wants to send me back to where I committed my crime, a very toxic place for me. Though the BOP`s own policy says that ex-prisoners “should be released to locations where they have the greatest likelihood of a successful community adjustment,” they don`t seem to follow that policy.
The BOP seems to do whatever it can to prevent an ex-prisoner from being released to a place where they`ll have the “greatest likelihood” of success, forcing most prisoners to return to where they committed their crimes — even if they don`t live there!
Even when the BOP does give in and start the process to “relocate” someone`s release to a healthier place, the BOP waits so long to do this that it often gets denied because the U.S. Probation Office tasked with approving the relocation can`t get it done. If there are any discrepancies, there`s no time to fix them.
Yes, the BOP`s policy says it must start the relocation process 17 to 19 months before someone`s release. That never happens. I signed my relocation request in April 2021. In November — 7 months later — another staff member discovered that it wasn`t sent and submitted it for me. Now it`s too late to fix anything and the USPO is rushed to approve my request, something the PO now says he`s “very 50/50” on doing.
This means I will likely have to go back to where I committed my crime and try to find a place to live. Meanwhile, I have a place to live and a career in a very healthy place, but I can`t go there without the BOP`s blessing. Does anyone see the problem here? Why is it so difficult to figure out why the system is broken, when the problem is so clearly obvious?