Step Into the Light

Journal Entry 14 – December 15, 2022

By Steven Maisenbacher

Well here we are again. Another week has gone by with all sorts of frolicking activities; this place is just insane. Let me relate what I’m talking about. At the beginning of this week a guy upstairs, a BOP inmate, had $600 stolen out of his locker. Only one other person knew where it was and that person was to be released that day – and in fact he was released.

Quite understandably, the guy whose hard-earned money was stolen got upset about all this. So he told his counselor that he wanted to go open a bank account so that his money wouldn’t be stolen again. She refused to let him go. This guy got so upset with the way these people were acting that he packed up his belongings and walked out of the facility. During the time that he was away unauthorized, one of the other inmates called him on his phone and said, “Look man, just go back and talk to her, they won’t do anything, they’ll understand.”

So he did and when he talked to his counselor, she smiled pretty in his face and offered him all the consoling platitudes. She then told him to go upstairs and unpack his stuff; they would figure something out. What a mistake trusting her was because she had in fact figured something out. He went upstairs and unpacked his property. Then as he came out of his room to go downstairs and outside for a moment, he discovered the Marshalls there waiting for him. They put him on the wall, handcuffed him, and took him back into custody to a County Jail somewhere. This all happened because he wanted to open a bank account so that the money he had worked for wouldn’t be stolen again.

The next day when they packed up his property the staff took his phone and went through it. Evidently they found what they believed to be numerous drug transactions and nefarious activities conducted with other inmates living upstairs here in the halfway house. So once again, they’re talking about confiscating everyone’s phones and going through them and making sure you don’t have any contacts in them with the very people you live around all the time anyway.

It seems to me that the turmoil in this place is brought on by the very people who run the place. They totally fail to really render any aid whatsoever to anyone trying to reenter society. In fact it has been my observation that they absolutely have done nothing to help anyone I’m acquainted with in reentry, myself included. Let’s go down this chain of thought:

I arrived here August 31st. For the first week I was confined to the building, and while I did have a telephone it took them several days to give it to me. They hassled me because I couldn’t prove where I got it. Well it’s kind of hard not to figure that out that when I had just gotten out of prison I bought the damn thing. Where’s your receipt? What did I know? I threw it away; why would I keep it? The phone worked that’s all I needed to know. I bought the phone while waiting at the bus station. It kept me in touch with Sings and family members and friends throughout my travels on the bus coming here.

Yes, after just getting out I did have some problems adjusting. My PTSD (anxiety, stress and fears) were kicking in just thinking of all the unknowns ahead of me. Like a dummy I told my case managers this and asked for help; I said I’d like to speak with a counselor. “Oh, no problem,” they said, and scheduled me for an interview with a psychologist for the company. From that simple request they also determined that I was to be held from getting any freedom of movement at all because I might be a danger to society due to my PTSD issues. So I had to see the psychologist at least two times and then possibly a psychiatrist before they would allow me to even go out to look for a job or be around the public.

So it took a month to see this guy twice. The first time I met with him he determined the PTSD was very real but that I was not a threat to society nor was society a threat to me. He arranged for them to loosen the reins just a little bit. So I start looking for jobs and we all know how that went. No one wants to hire an old guy with a walker and particularly not one that just got out of prison.

Then I finally got to go out to the community college. Yes, I dealt with that fear and was pleasantly surprised by the helpful way people treated me. I was to apply for my grant and once I got that I would go ahead and register, pick my classes, and meet with my counselors. In other words, do all the things I’m supposed to do to become familiar with the campus. Now before classes start in January I have to learn how to get on the computers. The people here know that I’m going to have to have a computer to do my assignments, but guess what, this place won’t allow me to have a laptop. The first reason or excuse was, and I quote: “We don’t want you to have that much access to the internet.” end quote. So I pulled my phone out of my pocket, put it on Google Assistant and said, Google what’s the temperature in Istanbul?

Now Google and I ain’t never been friends and it’s a well-known fact that I’m going to kick his little butt if I ever get my hands on him but he told me the temperature, whereupon I turned and looked at him and said how much more access to the internet do I need than this phone. The computer is for college assignments not to surf the web — which by the way, I don’t know how to do anyway come to think of it. I’m just beginning but I’m making progress with my computer skill thing now as you know if you read last week’s article. I do know how to get to the area where my assignments will be managed.

I also recently turned in my applications for at least 10 different scholarships I may be eligible for so I was told. Hmm, 10 different ones, I’ll be satisfied with one; anything that will help me get through my education to do what I got to do and that’s to be a better man and to give back. No, I don’t claim to be an angel, in fact I make a lot of mistakes; it’s all part of learning how to navigate in the world that I don’t know.

But what I don’t need in my reentry efforts is a bunch of people who feel entitled to take multiple thousands of dollars a year for a job that’s supposed to help me bridge this gap when in fact all they’re about is laying back In the cut looking for someone to make a mistake so that they can penalize them for it and arbitrarily take away anything that might mean something to them. There’s been a lot of weird things going on around here lately. Every day they are singling people out, it seems they are deliberately trying to get rid of people. At least that’s what my senses are telling me.

It has come to my attention that this place is in trouble because they are about to lose their contracts with the BOP next year. So the more people they can get through here for a minimum of 60 days, the more money they’ll be able to get before they do lose their contracts. It seems like they’re looking for any excuses.

With this on my radar, I decided I was not going to be blindsided by a whim of somebody that doesn’t like me and has been on my chain from the moment I walked in the door. I’ve talked to all my family and explained to them what’s going on. I’ve made arrangements for somebody to pick up my property just in case of the ugliest possible scenario.

The bottom line, however, is even with all that’s going on and all that could go on, I’m still going to keep chasing my dream. I’m still going to keep being me. I’m still going to keep going to college, even if it might be delayed — or might not.  I’m still going to keep loving the most wonderful woman in the world. I’m still going to keep loving the most wonderful family and friends that a man could possibly ever ask for, and I’m still going to be thankful for you for reading this.

Oh, and there’s one more thing I will never do. I’m Walks On The Grass and I Will Never Surrender.

Long Road Home by Steven Maisenbacher

Published by Sings Many Songs

I'm an 80-something child of the great depression and WWII. Throughout my life I have been a seeker, an outsider, never quite belonging anywhere, still always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. A lifelong student with many interests and a love of writing and editing, my elder's path led to encouraging and assisting some remarkable people to write out their amazing stories. This calling became the magic elixir that keeps me growing, keeps me alive.

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