Rip Van Winkle


India squad (that’s my squad) got to watch a graduation ceremony today.  It was pretty cool.  Every month, two squads graduate, and two squads that are two months away from the door get to watch.  So, now we know what to expect.

It’s a huge deal, being released from prison.  It’s literally the only day most prisoners look forward to.  The big difference for us is that we aren’t leaving through locked doors and razor-wire fences.  Going home for us means the beginning of a new challenge: Phase II.

“Mastery items”: that’s a synonym with hobbies.  You’re right Mom, agate hunting is a good diversion.  So will be running, weight lifting, cooking, and meetings.  All things I enjoy doing.  We’ve spent some time going over our mastery items in treatment and they will be on our daily/weekly schedule that I have to submit before I leave, and every week thereafter.  They don’t want us getting bored out there.

Another batch of new guys arrived less than an hour ago.  They are fun to watch.  They’re so scared, many of them shaking so hard they have trouble buttoning up their shirts.  Four months ago, I was the same.  We started out as squad number 12 of 12.  Today, we are 4 of 12.  And we (most of us) got our blue hats yesterday!  We are now a senior squad.

We can now teach what we have learned.  This is a very dangerous position to be in for some of us as we are held to the highest standards.  Mistakes are punished no longer with pushups, but with interventions (gigs) or L.E.s (Learning Experiences).  Most people that get kicked out of boot camp are blue hats.  I don’t think I will have any trouble.  I’ve been a good boy so far.  I’ve done all I can to show that I’m paying attention here.  I will most likely be the leader of our squad during graduation march.  Some of our squad still can’t call right on their right foot.  Officers will be paying more attention to them now.

[ANNE: A friend sent me a story from the New York Times Magazine: “You Just Got Out of Prison, Now What?”  It follows a couple of ex-cons who volunteer to pick up men being released, then spend a day trying to ease them into a world very different from the one they left when they were incarcerated.

They pick up a guy named Dale Hammock.  He had been pulled over for not wearing a seat belt and the cops found a bag of meth in his car.  Since it was his third offense, he was sent away for 21 years.

Twenty-one years.

It’s got to be overwhelming to walk out the gates.  The volunteers take him to Target to buy jeans.  Have you noticed how many choices there are for jeans?  In 1994 it was Levis, Lees, or Sears jeans.  Now there are dozens of brands and styles—boot cut, skinny, extra long, straight leg, relaxed, low rise, and on and on.  I haven’t been in prison but I feel overwhelmed by all the choices.  The same is true in chain restaurants, which now make you sift through five menus with hundreds of options, and in the grocery store.  A couple times I have walked out of a store without buying anything because I was too paralyzed by the choices to make a decision.

Then of course there is technology.  The volunteer showed Hammock something on his smart phone and Hammock asked, ‘‘Everything now, you just touch it, and it shows you things?’’  God help him.]

2 thoughts on “Rip Van Winkle

  1. Sarah

    Hi there,
    I noticed that writing is not in your list of hobbies. Regardless of its hobby categorization status, I hope you continue writing if it gives you peace; whether or not it be for others to read. Thank you again and again for giving me a light of good through your posts.


  2. conniekasella

    Vince, I only recently learned that you are able to read comments. So…let me tell you, I have read every post you’ve written. I am immensely proud of you and your accomplishments! Your strength and positive outlook are inspiring. You are an amazing story teller. I agree with the other comment that you should continue to write. I so look forward to the day I can reach out and give you a big hug. Love you to the moon and back. Keep up the good work!!



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