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Asking to speak with the prison warden was much like Dorothy asking to speak to the Wizard of Oz. No one gets in to see him!. No way no how!. You need an appt.,come back in a year!. Better yet, write a letter!.
This is how it went after our loved one in prison contacted us while we were driving thru mountainous terrain, in the rain, 7 hrs into an 8 hr trip to pick up him up from prison. We were to be his transportation, 8 hrs back the other way, to the BOP’s referred transitional housing. (Yes, this is the same one we sent the clothes package to that mysteriously disappeared at the prison/see last week’s blog). 40 miles from our destination we receive a phone call from our loved one. “Don’t bother coming” he says, “they’re not letting me out.”
He’s been a jokester all his life, “You’re kidding right?” I said, fully expecting the “Yeah, I’m only kidding” reply.
But no, it seems that the transitional halfway house that the BOP treatment team had scheduled him to go to, the one that we were transporting him to, saving the BOP $$$ on bus transportation, didn’t take sex offenders, no matter how minimal their offense.
For those of you that are new to how the BOP works, nothing is done quickly. There are months and months of planning and paperwork, treatment teams to decide where people transition to. Information is sent from one office to a regional office and then onwards to transitional housing, etc.,etc.
So I ask you, how, in 6 months of preparation for transfer to transitional housing did no one on the treatment team know that the halfway house didn’t accept sex offenders? Isn’t that sort of their job, to know that kind of stuff? Isn’t that at the very heart of discharge planning? Knowing about the place you are sending someone to. Are the services there appropriate for the inmate, will they get the treatment required to complete any BOP programs they need to complete. Do they accept sex offenders. You know, basic questions.
Of course by now, our loved one had given away most of his possessions, extra clothes, shoes, food (standard “good will” protocol for inmates leaving prison), depleted his comissary funds and to top it all off the prison shuts off phone priviledges 24 hrs before you are scheduled to leave, so he was actually having to call from his counselor’s office.
“Not the prison’s mistake” he was told. “Blame the transitional living house”.
He was told that there would be a treatment team in 2 days to discuss “other options.” (Boy, I’ve got some options for that treatment team.)
Now, too many things are just not adding up.
Just last week our loved one and I joked about the fact that he was still listed on a schedule for a treatment team Thursday even though he was scheduled to get out on Wednesday. His “get out” clothes package had gone missing for 13 days.
I call the prison and ask to speak with the person in charge. I’m told the warden speaks to no one and everyone else had gone home for the day.
8 AM the following morning I am on the phone to the prison. After they transfered what I can only assume they thought was some crazy woman on the phone, numerous times, I spoke with someone who thought he could help. (He couldn’t.) As many times as I explained that I understood WHY the transitional housing wasn’t accepting our loved one, what I wanted to know was HOW this happened. Who dropped the ball? How could a plan be in place for an inmate for six months and no one is aware that the transitional housing didn’t take anyone with a sex offense? Who is being held accountable?
After alot of back and forth nonsense about not being able to discuss the prison’s internal policies with me and that this wasn’t my problem to deal with, it was the inmate’s problem, I’d had enough. I didn’t mince words with this guy, BOP or not. This became my problem the moment the BOP bungled this discharge plan. It became my problem when we drove 8 hrs one way only to learn our loved one wasn’t leaving. It became my problem when we spent money on gas, food and overnite lodging because someone at the prison was incompetent at their job. It became my problem because we traveled all that way and it wasn’t a visiting day at the prison so we couldn’t even see our loved one. It became my problem because no one should be treated like this. Not inmates nor their families. This was just too cruel.
I contacted the transitional living facility, I wanted more info about how this mess happened before I sent off scathing letters to every U.S. government offical I could think of. Surprisingly, thru various past employments, I knew actually knew the director of the facility. Without wanting to point fingers he acknowledged that the facility erred in accepting the referral 6 months ago, however, he said, the prison should have been well aware of the facility’s sex offender restrictions. He said the transitional facility seldom even looks at the “sex offense” area of the paperwork because referring facilities such as the BOP know not to send them sex offenders. There are so few halfway houses across the country that accept sex offenders, the BOP knows which ones they are. Fortunately or unfortunately, the transitional housing staff caught the mistake on Monday and notified the prison immediately. (The prison didn’t notify our loved one until late Tuesday, again, had they done their job, we could have avoided an unnecessary trip.) I was also informed by the transitional facility that had they not caught the mistake, if our loved one had arrived on their doorstep, they would have had no choice but to notify local police who would have then had to take him into custody and place him in jail until the BOP could arrange transport back to the prison he was just let out of.
This is a perfect example of a completely bungled discharge plan for a sex offender. With so few transitional housing facilities in the country willing to accept sex offenders, the prison was obligated to get this right, especially since one of the major components of this particular prison’s complex, is a sex offender treatment program. If our government is intent on locking people up and labeling them all as sex offenders then they had better have plenty of facilities available to transition sex offenders back into the community.
The letter to the warden was sent this morning, the Dept. Of Justice and the Director of the BOP will get their’s next. I’m not letting this go. I accept the transitional living facility’s right to not accept a sex offender, what I don’t accept is the disaster that the BOP made of this transition, the total disregard they seem to have for the negative effects, the emotional hurt that something like this has on an inmate and their family and the total lack of accountability for this mistake. When I spoke with my loved one today (finally got his phone privilege reinstated and there is an option of another transitional living facility in the works), he said that even after all this kerfuffle, as late as yesterday morning, guards were still telling him to change into his “get out clothes” and prepare to leave. Apparently the right hand at the prison has no idea what the left hand is doing!
Like I said, I’m not letting this go.
I may have to send out the flying monkeys!!