In one of my earliest experiences with probation I read this sign: “Probation is another form of detention”, and it was while sitting in the waiting room, I thought of an analogy I’d like to share with you.
A Black author wrote a play entitled, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, and it seemed apropos I would have thought of it at that time some thirteen years ago and it still has a profound effect on what I do today.
As a child I had a pet parakeet who’d play with the toys, ate the food and drank the water, who sang happily because life was good. It’s so good whenever you have someone who provides for your needs and clean up the crap you leave behind. However, whenever we’d leave the door open to its cage, inviting it to be free, even though temporarily, I noticed it’s chest heaving not due to flying, but the fear of venturing in unknown territory. It was afraid and if Peter had flown out of a doorway, how would it live? Who’d feed it? Who’d give it fresh water having never gotten these on its own before? Peter was happy to be in its cage and seldom had any interest getting out.
I learned to live like that. Probation was never an option for me until this bid I’m currently doing. My first bid I had to do three years after serving 17 days in the state penitentiary and after a 3 day sentence in another state, the 2 year probation was concurrent with the first state. The probation experience was horrible having to deal with probation officer’s personalities who really cared nothing about me. I made a promise to never put myself in such a situation again. Sadly to say, two years later I would pick up my third bid, a 26 month sentence with the feds which carried a mandatory three year probation. When I learned I’d have to do this, I was fortunate to arrange it where the officer was too far to travel and I refused to get a driver’s license, and a car, preventing me being able to get there and travel using public transportation was prohibitive and not reasonable, even though the distance was about 30 miles, one way. It would have meant traveling 60 miles south to New York City and then traveling the same distance northwest, to be repeating to get back home, never mind the associated costs, so the probation officer’s main contact was via phone and this only to ensure I would be there when a visit needed to be done, about twice a year!
I do not like having my home searched, so I moved into a room and lived in an area slightly larger than a cell, and stacked my things in boxes and lined the walls three stacks high, providing a mere walkway troublesome to me alone never mind the three or four officers they’d bring for those searches, which terminated quickly upon the next search visit! It just made the whole matter tolerable for me. No sitting in waiting rooms, no having to be observed peeing in a cup, etc., etc., etc.
After completing it in 2007 and picking up this bid in 2010 I met with the Parole Board nine months later and told them I was not interested in their offer to be released in four months, to have to deal with them for the next probable two years! That’s right, I denied them before giving them a chance to deny me. What kind of freedom is it to have a sense of freedom with a rope around one leg where they could reel me back whenever they wanted? I violated several times before and received thirty days and it would never happen again. Of course, being much older and the probability of my violating again is slim next to none, but to wake up each day wondering like my bird because the door was left open caused me to have anxiety attacks. No, leave me alone! I’m quite happy here knowing my parameters while being fed, clothed, housed, receiving medical/dental/eye care especially during a very difficult economic time and someone cleans up my mess! I have it too good to want to have freedom which is not real.
The question will be put to you: Will you be willing to have your family or friend’s home to be searched because of you? I could never be so selfish. Although, I would have lived in my own place, I don’t want anyone coming in there without my permission or my inability to say, “No”. You’re not family, nor friend, so I’m not interested.
I’ve often asked the question to others, what would happen if we all went to trial? How about if we all refused parole/probation? The answer is obvious, the system would either fold in on itself or be revamped to reconsider how they treat convicts. I just refused to allow them to hang the dangling carrot of freedom in front of me to be had only when they wanted me to have it. When they open the door for me two years later, I will walk out, headed wherever I want to go, without having to report to someone within 48 hours. Now, that’s my kind of freedom.
It’s always and will always be your choice.