I have left Parole Board interviews feeling utterly useless and totally ineffective.
The Parole Board interview, an integral part of the life of a prisoner, can strike terror in the heart of the inmate.
A woman formerly behind bars told me that the PB interview was worse than her trial.
I think some Parole Board members delight in making prisoners sweat, squirm and weep. I'm not sure why...perhaps, just because they can.
I tell you all of this as a long introduction to this blog entry.
I have been steeling myself for a ten-year Parole Board review of a lifer. This prisoner and his parents approached me some time ago to ask if I would be willing to serve as his representative. I immediately agreed, for a number of reasons. I almost always agree to do it, regardless of the prisoner, because I cannot stand the thought of an inmate going there alone. But in this case, I happen to believe that the man, in for life without parole for first degree murder, is innocent. And even if he wasn't, he has been the finest example of a model prisoner that I have ever seen. Ever. He's a gentleman. He treats his superiors and the system with respect, refusing to show his disdain for all of the shortcomings. He has love for his fellow man, and has served as a GED teacher in the prison system for years. His family believes in him. He has a strong support group.
But I warned him, and I warned his parents, that this could be an unpleasant experience. In preparation for the event, the prisoner and his family asked for prayers. And, I asked our Board of Directors and a couple special prayer partners to remember this situation.
And then the most amazing thing happened. The PB member, a retired state police officer, actually had empathy with the prisoner. He actually listened to his story in an objective way, and finally suggested that the case was so compelling that the prisoner---even though all court avenues have been exhausted---should immediately appeal to an Innocence Project for help. He concluded the interview by saying, "If you are innocent, it's a crime that you're in here."
Is that a tiny light that I see far down at the end of the tunnel?
Thank you, prayer partners.
Thank you, Lord.