Saturday, March 1, 2014

Go Directly to Jail

Well, I have news.  And, unfortunately, it's not good.  

How I wish I was telling the world, as I have at various times in the past, that I'm the proud father of a new baby, or that I married my sweetheart or that I published a novel.  But no.  Not today.  Today, my news is bad.  Thankfully, I don't have cancer, nor is a close family-member sick.  News related to death, dying and sickness is always the worst.  But among the various sorts of non-medical bad news, this is about the worst that I can think of.  Worse than getting fired, worse than divorce.  Worse - dare I say it? - than having your dog die.  In fact, my news ranks right down there with a burning house or a broken leg.  Come to think of it, I'd actually rather break my leg. On a good news scale of one-to-ten, my news is about a zero.  One if I'm generous.

Sorry, I didn't mean to drag this out, especially since I already more-or-less gave the news away in the title. But now that it's time to announce my news to the world, or, in any event, to my own limited readership, it's surprisingly hard to say.  It's bad, it's embarrassing, it's pathetic.  If I had a rock to crawl under, I'd be doing it right about now.  But here in sub-zero Wisconsin, all I've got are snow drifts.

So here goes....Scrunch up my face, open my mouth, force the words from my throat:  

I'm going to jail.

There.  Putting it in tiny type helped a bit.  As did the fact that, for me anyway, writing is easier than talking. But it was still hard.  The truth is, I can hardly believe it.  I know it's true but it seems like a bad dream, like I'll wake up and it will all be gone.  I'm not saying I'm exceptional, or that I don't deserve punishment.  But as bad as it sounds to say, I always thought of jail as a place for someone else. Which, come to think of it, is probably what most convicted felons say.  Or wish.

The announcement is not exactly cathartic.  I didn't really expect it to be. But I decided to put it up here for all to see as a way to, at the least, come out from the cave I've been hiding myself in.  My friends and family all know already anyway and telling them was much harder than writing the news in my blog.  I sprung it on them as a wonderful Christmas/New Year's present. Now they are diligently drafting me letters of support, telling the judge that, despite my misdeeds, I am still a good person.

In this post I am not going to discuss my crime or my punishment.  That's all for later. But I do want to emphasize that my crime was a nonviolent one, committed while I was a lawyer in the Wild East (Russia) for a notoriously corrupt oligarch.  That said, it was still a crime, a federal felony no less.  And I in no way intend to try to justify myself or blame others.  To paraphrase Popeye: "I yam what I yam and I done what I done."

Going public is actually not for me, although to keep myself honest I pretend that I'm writing a personal journal. I've been hiding away from the world in shame for far too long. By pretending all is well I realized I was doing a disservice. My true and abiding hope is that through honestly sharing my experiences, I may be able to prevent someone, sometime from actually committing a crime. I don't overestimate the influence I will have, but even if just one person questioned their actions as a result of my mistakes I would have brought some meaning to my senseless crime.

I don't intend to leave you hanging.  Or not for long anyway.  In coming posts, I will chronicle my experiences as I wend my way through the criminal justice system and face my punishment.  Let me take you along with me on a vicarious trip I hope you will never have to take and have not taken before. In fact, by writing I hope that I can prevent at least one person from taking this very trip.  All you criminals out there: please read my blog!!!

There are several moving, heartfelt blogs out there written by ex-cons (several of which are listed in the favorite sites link on my homepage), but, maybe unsurprisingly, the thoughts and experiences of this population are underrepresented on the internet.  As an eternal optimist, I decided to try to make the best of a bad situation and use my gift for writing to chronicle my journey.  In so doing, I  hope that maybe I can open hearts and minds, and raise awareness of important issues related to incarceration and the criminal justice system.  I hope too that I can help others going through the same thing as me. Being labeled a felon can make you feel awfully alone, upset and confused. Knowing that you're not the only one out there can be of some comfort.  As I've already said, I also hope that maybe my writing will deter others from following in my footsteps. My experience?  It's not worth it.  Crime doesn't pay.

As I like to say, just because I did a bad thing doesn't mean I'm a bad person.  Unfortunately, we as a society are often too quick to categorize, placing people into baskets of good or bad, worthy or not worthy. I hope that I am able to bring some subtlety to the topic, to open a few eyes, and to further debate.


There we go.  I said it again.  No turning back now.  

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