Would You Lie?

Danny maxed-out his sentence. He wrapped-up ten years at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. He would have been out in five if he had been considered amenable to programming. When he went before the parole board at his minimum, one of the board members remarked, "If I were in your place, I'd do whatever I had to do to get out of prison."

"Would you lie?" Danny asked.

That day, Danny realized he would be maxing-out his sentence. One of Danny's charges is sexual assault. In New Hampshire, he must successfully complete the prison’s sexual offender program to get parole. But to get into the program you must be willing to “take responsibility” for your crime. Danny says he's not guilty.

"I told them I'd take their program. Only, I can't lie and say something happened that didn't happen. I mean, what's the point of treatment if you have to be dishonest to get in?" He chuckles at the thought.

Once you get to know him, it’s obvious he’s telling the truth. An optimistic outlook on life helped him get through the ten years. He has an easy smile and a good sense of humor.

"I wasn't always like that. The first few years I was preoccupied with myself and what was happening to me in here. Then, I realized that I was making life miserable for my wife on the outside. I mean, it's not her fault that I'm here either, and if she has to worry about what's happening to me it just makes her life more difficult."

Danny took college courses, led music in the prison chapel and worked hard while in prison. He wasn’t anybody's problem. But when he walked out the front door and into the arms of his waiting wife, it didn’t mean his troubles were over. The first of his two consecutive sentences had a five-year probation period attached to it. The state wanted him to do that time, too.

"It's messed-up." He says. "That time should have been running while I was doing my second sentence. But, they don't want to cut me loose. I think they’re angry that I wouldn’t take their program."

What really bothered him was the possibility he would be brought back to prison on a probation violation. He was worried he would have to max-out those probationary years behind bars, too. A large number of parolees and probationers do get sent back to prison, usually for minor infractions of strict parole and probation rules. Danny wouldn’t have any problem living within the usual rules. He doesn’t have a criminal mindset. His fear was that his continued assertion of innocence would get him violated. Here's the problem. Meaningful participation in sexual offender counseling will be one of the terms of his probation. Danny feared the same scenario as in prison: he denies guilt; they say he's not cooperating; he gets sent back to prison. When Danny first told me of his fears, I thought they were exaggerations. Now, I think he has reason to be afraid.

A short time after Danny’s release I saw a familiar face in the chow hall, a 50-year-old ex-cop who had done time with me in Strafford County Jail. We were sent from jail to prison within a few days of each other. We went through R&D, the prison's Receiving and Diagnostics Unit, together. His wife had accused him of threatening her with a handgun. He had been found not guilty of the charges in a jury trial. But, while awaiting trial, he had written a letter to his wife, sent via his pastor, asking her to not divorce him. On that basis, he was convicted of witness tampering and sentenced to one-and-a-half to three years in prison. After R&D, he was sent to the Laconia prison. I stayed in Concord. We lost touch with each other. Now, he was back. 

"Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked. “I thought you'd be out by now."

"I was out," he said glumly. "They brought me back on a parole violation"

"What for?"

"I flunked-out of domestic violence class."

"What happened?" I asked. I knew it would be a good story.

"When I went before the parole board they said, 'What about the handgun?'

I told them I had been found not guilty of those charges. They said they were aware of that, but thought I was probably guilty and were still going to require that I go through a 40-week course for batterers. After fifteen weeks of sessions, at $35 a pop, the counselor told me I was minimizing my problems by saying I didn’t do it.  He kicked me out. So, here I am."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to have to try to get back into the course,” he smiled. “I guess I know now what I have to say to pass."