Thursday, September 20, 2018

Time To Go Home!

Two years ago today I left the Federal Prison Camp in Miami. On one hand it feels like yesterday and on the other hand it seems like my incarceration was a lifetime ago. Now, I had originally planned to head down there today and take a video on location, but my luck they would mistake me for an escapee and I would get stuck there until they realized that I did not belong. No thank you.

The day I was taken off to prison, my lawyer told my family that I would leave prison in the best shape of my life. And he was right. I entered prison at my absolute highest weight and left there having lost close to 25 pounds. My exit weight was 155 lb. Even more impressive, I left prison able to bench press greater than my body weight. By the time I left, I was running 10 miles a day and working out for an hour on top of that. In other words, prison amounted to a federally funded get in shape regiment. Many people go to fat camp to lose weight and pay thousands of dollars per week. I, on the other hand had Uncle Sam pay for my program. I am not alone in this. For many people, prison amounts to more time of freedom. How is this possible you ask? Well there are those who get sentenced to even up yo five years. The enter prison overweight, diabetic and with high blood pressure as a result of their obesity. In short, they are on the way to an early death. However, once they are in prison, at some point they realize that they might as well use that time to better themselves. By the time the leave, they may have added 10 years to their lives because many of their health problems will have dissipated with the the new healthy lifestyle. Again thank you Uncle Sam.

So what is it like to leave prison? Well it is actually kind of surreal. As a prisoner gets ready to leave the vultures start circling. While in prison, I bought shorts, sweatpants, t-shirts, boxers, and sweatshirts. Obviously, aside from what I was going to wear when I left, I was not going to bring home an oversupply of grey clothing. Suddenly everybody wants your old clothing. They even want your socks and underwear! Now there are those who oddly enough try to sell these items as they leave. But I just gave everything away. Even my underwear.

Obviously, unless you are a hermit, you will have made friends there. It is kind of hard to say goodbye, not because you will miss anything but because many of the friends still have plenty of time left before they go home. At the same time there is a strange camaraderie that develops between prisoners. For the most part everyone is happy for the guy that gets to go home and be with his family.

You would not think it but the actual process of "checking out" is a long drawn out process. It can take over two hours. One would think that all of the paperwork is ready when you are ready to leave, but this is not the Hilton or even Motel 6 for that matter. It is almost as if, no one even realized you were leaving that day. I had thought I would be walking out at 830 or so. In the end I walked out at close to 11!

Keep in mind that for most people when they are released, they do not go home. Usually, they are transitioned to a half way house where they can go to work every day and go home for the weekends. This is exactly what happened  to me. Technically, upon release a prisoner is still in prison while at the halfway house. It is a way to transition prisoners back into everyday life. For me this meant that while my actual sentence was 17 months or so, I got to spend the last six and a half in a halfway house or under home confinement. So while the intent of the halfway house is to ease the transition for many people, especially those of us with white collar offenses, it is a way to lessen the time in the actual prison. Incidentally, the last 10% of a sentence is spent at home.

Finally, when I was released, I saw my wife and kids waiting in the car. Now even though I had just seen them two days earlier when they came to visit, this was different. It was as if I had been gone a lifetime and was seeing everyone for the first time in ages. There is something about the conclusion of a sentence that cannot be described. The idea that a difficult period is finally over is akin to being born anew. So while the rebuilding process is daunting for anyone who leaves prison, the very chance to rebuild is in and of itself a reason to celebrate.

As I sit here two years later I wonder if it is good that I went to prison. Depending on the day my wife will either tell you it was the best 11 months or the worst 11 months of her life. Am I stronger for having gone? Yes. Am I a better person? I think so. Do I appreciate the things that I used to take for granted? Absolutely. Did I deserve to go to prison. Well that is a topic for another day. As a punishment, I don't think it was relevant and there are cheaper better, less disruptive ways that they could have punished me when the feds decided that I committed a crime. However, as challenges in life go, there are certainly greater ones than having to spend 10 months in a prison camp. Given the challenges I have seen people endure be it health, or any other of the thousands of stressors that we inevitably face I think short prison time in a camp is among the easier to endure. Plus you come out better looking at the end!

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