Don’t feel much like writing today….

Was a good day, a wonderful day… still is, in its way.  But I don’t feel right about enjoying it.

I just got a letter from my friend Jim (not his real name).  Good guy… one of the genuine nice guys in this world.  I’ve known him to be honest to a fault, even when it might cause him harm.  Hard worker, educated, perhaps the person I trust most in the whole world… and some of my best work was done with him collaborating. 

He got out of prison some time before I did.  Has held down a good job, been doing a lot of good in the world….  I don’t want to expose his identity, though.

So why am I unhappy about getting his letter?

It came from prison.  Yes, “Jim” is back in prison – four and a half years into his five-year “parole.”  Why?  He didn’t commit a crime.  He didn’t steal from or otherwise harm anybody.  Wasn’t irresponsible, didn’t shun the law, has in fact been the ultimate clean-cut kid since his release….

So why’s he back in jail (for six to nine months)?

There are a lot of rules that so-called “sex offenders” are subject to while on parole or probation (bear in mind that folks have been labeled “sex offenders” in Ohio for crimes as minor as kissing a teenager’s foot in public after losing a bet – or getting caught pissing behind a dumpster).  While I was on parole from 2004 to 2006, some of the rules I had to follow (despite none of them having anything to do with my alleged crime) included: I couldn’t own or use a digital camera, couldn’t be on the internet, couldn’t travel out-of-state without permission, couldn’t drink a beer, couldn’t enter any establishment that served liquor, couldn’t date, get married or have sex (including with my wife) without my parole officer’s permission….  You get the idea.

While on probation, Jim dated someone for a couple of years.  A year or two after that relationship ended, the person Jim dated (a consenting adult) learned that Jim had been in prison before they met.  Turns out there is another rule I haven’t mentioned: couldn’t have a “relationship” with anyone without first telling them about “your offending past.”

Apparently Jim never told his ex that he was an ex-convict.  That is a violation of his parole.  Now he’s separated from his family, his thriving business will struggle because he can’t work – and he’s spending all summer and fall in a ten-by-twelve foot cell because he failed to tell someone he’d been in prison.

Seems like an odd rule to me….  “Your offending past” is vague.  Would my DUI in 1991 count?  Or the time I passed gas loudly during the pastor’s sermon at age fifteen?  Some folks consider my use of the word fuck offensive.  Or my criticism of George Bush….  Or the fact that I voted for Bush senior in 1988 (hell, even I find that one offensive)….

Sure, we know what the rule means.  But when do you tell someone?  Even if you say, “Hey, I’m an ex-convict” ten minutes into your first date, you’ve broken the rule for the first ten minutes.  And how do they define “relationship”?  Sex is a form of relationship.  So is friendship or being a neighbor.  I have “relationships” in a general sense with folks who read my blog, many of whom I’ve never met in person.

Merriam-Webster says a relationship is any “state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings.”  Buying a can of soda is a form of dealing.  So should Jim tell the clerk at 7/11 that he’s an ex-convict before handing over any money?

We’re talking about a consensual relationship between adults.  There was no abuse involved.  While Jim has been on probation for four and a half years, he has not commited a crime – hasn’t even exceeded the speed limit driving.  And he’s paid for anything done in the distant past.  

Jim was due to be off probation by Christmas.  Now he may be in prison for Christmas.  This is where tens of thousands of our tax dollars are going?  And he’s not the only one….

At least he’s kept a sense of humor.  He wrote at the top of his letter: WORST SUMMER CAMP EV – ER!!

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