The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Getting Prepared


When the parole officer came to the house the first time, all of Jacob’s game systems and computer equipment was still there. Jacob is a gamer and a computer geek who studied Computer Information Technology in high school and worked in technology sales before going to school for nursing. He was the person that friends called to help with computer issues. He was the one I called to ask for help. I am not computer illiterate nor do I fear the computer as some unfathomable object. I am not afraid to poke around under the hood and change settings. My computer provides OTJ training now. I can ask Jacob questions, but he cannot look at my computer or fix it. He is disconnected. He said on that first full day on the outside that it did not feel real; he reflected that it was because he was disconnected now.

I had called this parole officer a few days before the visit and left the message that I had shut off the internet. He returned my call when I was out and about in Johnstown. He asked for an email confirmation of that termination. He did not tell me that all devices capable of connecting to the internet must go. Should I have known that? Certainly, I should have understood that trust is not a word that will be used in their dealings; it will be like the distrustful wife on steroids. That is hard for me to adapt to because I believe in Jacob’s innocence and hope that someday the truth will be heard.

How could we have known though? Neither Jacob nor our family had ever dealt with the justice system in a criminal case or with the life of a parolee. In fact, Jacob is the one who told us to call this man about getting a home plan set up a couple of weeks ago. We had no idea that we needed to do that for him to be released. Is there some manual to explain these things? Who does the inmate who has no one, turn to for help? This system is also an OTJ training ground. It is trial and error when errors bring extreme consequences. You must become knowledgeable without necessarily being given that knowledge. You must become self-taught. Much of Jacob’s knowledge of the workings in this system has come from his own experiences now and the advice of others he lived with sharing their experiences. I have entertained the notion that the best lawyer would be the one who has been accused; the one who has been on both sides of this system.

His parole officer walked in with a co-worker – in training? witness?. They walked into the living room and told me a game system sitting below the television had to go. They looked at the movies and discussed anime that was prohibited; Jacob did not own any of that. This second man seemed hesitant in his statements, so I would say this was a training visit. Then one of them asked, “How old is he?” That is a question to which they already should have had the answer. He commented that a lot of our guys are into this. Anime? Movies? Games? Was this a judgment statement about Jacob’s taste in entertainment? Was it a statement about similarities in felons that are used in profiling? Perhaps it was a simple conversational comment.

The officers walked down to the basement that was set up with two monitors, a television, a desktop computer, a laptop and several game systems including that original Nintendo on which I used to play Dr. Mario and Tetris; I was the adult hogging the controller saying just a minute, just a minute. It has been years since I played either of those games. This all had to go. One of them was looking to the side with the washer and dryer and ironing board. For a second I was confused and repeated, “All of this?” Then he amended that statement to exclude that old Nintendo and the Wii.

In the kitchen, the second man asked if there was any alcohol. I said no and invited him to look in the cabinets. Of course they would be returning again; he did not look. The cat tree was in the back room.

“Does he have a cat?”

“He has two cats that are at my house.”

I had teased Jacob that his cats would not want to come home because my house was bigger with more beds to lie on and hide under. But my daughter brought the cats home on Jacob’s second day out. My grandson was away that weekend when his mother took the cats away from our house. I wondered if he would notice their absence when he returned home. When the officer asked about the cats, I wondered why. He did not say anything else in response to my yes. Jacob said later that dogs must be approved for the home plan. I was glad we had not suggested he take one of our Boykin Spaniel puppies born in January.

When the men left, I had the list of items that must go. I called my husband to bring his truck to haul the things away. I had given Jacob and my daughter all their photos and toys and school things years ago vowing that none of those things would ever return to my house. Now even more was coming back than had ever left. I bought some plastic bins forgetting all the empty ones in the storage area, even though I had just opened that room for the officers. I went overboard packing any movies that seemed as if they might appeal to younger people even though Jacob is young himself. I removed all animation and anime. I packed up all those little collectibles into tissue paper. I packed up every game system including the couple that supposedly could stay. I would bring them back once I had sorted and organized at my house and confirmed which could return. My husband did not have room for the monitors and printer so they stayed in the house. I mentioned them in my phone message later to the parole officer. When he called to reschedule, I forgot to ask about them again. I learned they did have to go too, but those items would not stop the release.

That night after cleaning the house, I drank two glasses of wine and poured the rest of the bottle down the drain. I tossed the empty bottle into the recycling container in the kitchen. I recycle everything possible always wondering whether it really gets recycled or hauled to some ocean island. It is one of those times when you hope that good things happen but wonder what really might have happened to your garbage.

When the parole officer returned, he was alone and driving a different car. I was sitting on the front porch when he arrived and had every door thrown open. He looked around and then said something about me being agitated on the previous visit. I was agitated that he and I had wasted our time with a pointless visit. I was agitated that my husband had to make a trip to get the things when I could have taken them to my house on my trips home and been ready that first time. I was agitated that I was forced to donate items because I had no place to put them and no one to take them. I told him that I was agitated about things he did not want to hear about. The house passed inspection and was ready for Jacob’s return.

At the end of the inspection, this officer said ‘I cannot control what you do’. That would be true if we did not care about Jacob and contemptuously put him in non-compliance by disregarding his rules and restrictions.

I said, “I am not stupid or foolish. None of us will do anything to have Jacob violate.” Jacob’s rules are our rules when we are with him or he is with us now.

When Jacob met with his parole officer on their first meeting after his release, they discussed the electronic items that he could have but that I had removed in my fervor to be compliant with all rules. I spent this weekend getting together the things to return. He asked Jacob about his use of alcohol; Jacob admitted to having drinks with friends on occasions. No drinking permitted; no problem. This man mentioned to Jacob that I liked to drink wine. I tried to remember if I had mentioned drinking the wine the night before or if he had simply observed the empty bottle in the recycling container. I suddenly felt guilty for drinking those two glasses of wine.


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