24 Hours Until My Parole Hearing

Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m stronger than I think. It’s less than 24 hours until my board hearing tomorrow and I still have the echoes of yesterdays 4th of July explosions ringing in my ears. Reminding me that freedom is never given, it’s fought for, earned.

Prison used to seem so simple when I first came here. Come in, do my time and wait to go home. This belief is shockingly dehumanizing, not to mention unrealistic. Just like everywhere else humans inhabit there are many personalities present. People exist here.

Not cops.
Not prisoners.
Not monsters.
Not thugs.
Not murderers.
Not rapists.
Not saints.
Not heroes.
Not heroines.

People. People exist here. Despite how perfectly made we are we certainly don’t exist constantly in perfection, do we? The humanizing viewpoint, that I’ve come to rely on, is that this place is incredibly political and sensitive. Chalked full of people who don’t always know how to effectively communicate, on both sides of the fence (so to speak). Personalities clash and mesh well, it’s inevitable. It’s hard to account that as you do time you run into people you like and even care about.

It’s almost never said when you’re coming into prison “Some people learn to love for the first time behind those fences, some people learn to accept love for the first time. Hopefully that’s you.”

I want to go home, go somewhere and make a home. Make lots of money and then spend it. Laugh, only shop at Whole Foods until I’m over it, cuddle with friends and lovers. Build spaces that are centers for healing…learning. I’m nervous, but I’m hopeful too. I’m strong, I’m capable. I’m ready. Ready to live.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

24 Hours After My Parole Hearing

Ten years ago I was sentenced to 140 months to Life. That’s the precise wording. I was 28 and deserving of the sentence. When I first fell (that is, came to prison) I was lost, I wasn’t taking everything too serious, after all, I was just given a life sentence…what’s left to lose.

It didn’t take long for me to pull my head out of my, ahem…you know, and start the long process of change. Slowly, year after year I got my life in order and began to think less about a “life” sentence and more about I can release in 10 years. Yesterday, I had that chance. I seen the parole board.

For months leading up to my hearing I tensed more and more until it felt like I was wringing myself out like a dishtowel. All my energy was zapped and I spent most of my time in some form of meditation to soothe my anxiety ridden muscles. My therapist and I both agree I should probably see a medical, doctor to check for ulcers and a general health check-up. lol. (P.S., I’m definitely NOT going to do that, no doctor goes thru med school and is like “you know, I’m going to work in a prison… prison doc’s are untrustworthy)

My hearing went as well as I could imagine. I had to answer for what I’ve done in a very direct and pointed manner. I did that as best I could. At this point I am at peace with whatever the decision (which I will hear about in 4-6 weeks) because I left everything out there. I’ve done the best I could, I’ve changed, I communicated that change, I answered for what I did… in it’s entirety and I communicated what I am doing now to never allow that (or anything like it) to happen again.

All in all, I’m happy. I slept wonderful last night because as the hours ticked by after the hearing my body slowly untensed. It was like melting.

For anyone who supported me in spirit or directly, thank you. I was seriously carried to that finish line.

With Love