This guy sits in solitary confinement for twenty years. It would’ve been for eighty except it’s proved more enough beyond a reasonable doubt than was in the case against him that somebody else had committed the crime for which he had been sentenced. The state’s attorney — three state’s attorney’s removed from the one who’d led the prosecution — filed a plea for early release before the circuit judge, along with the request that the defendant be granted said release under special circumstances, yet not have his judgment overturned, since neither the state’s attorney’s office, the original prosecutor, nor the presiding judge in the case under review should be construed as liable for having contributed willfully or otherwise to a miscarriage of justice, which interpretation might be so enabled were the ruling to be vacated. The public defender acquiesced in the interest of expediency, having extended this recommendation to his client who had long settled that resistance was futile. It was therefore argued that it would be in the interest of the state judiciary and law enforcement if the guilty verdict remained in tact, which argument whatever it’s worth the judge interpreted as well-reasoned and so ordered.Thereby released, this newly freed man found himself in a position to reap just the kind of attention one would hope for — at least as one not affected might reckon — when a human rights lawyer applying pressure with just the right balance of ruthless tact and diplomatic expression convinced the court that it would be in the interest of the state to provide a penury allowance commensurate with the length of the term of imprisonment and successfully negotiated financial compensation for time served. It was clear to the parties when the sentence was to be suspended that the preponderance of prospect lie therein that the defendant’s ability to find gainful employment would be infringed. His lawyer was able to accentuate that fact not only with meticulous clarity, but persuasively.
One might say the settlement was handsome, but then twenty years is not something that’s easy to evaluate or — put another way, it’s hard to prove that the burden of the twenty years was equally as bad as the recompense was ameliorative. It is at any rate with great difficulty that one should consider freedom under the aforementioned circumstances on par with one’s being lucky, save for when one is speaking of the objective odds in a game of chance, all things in this case, however, being unequal. The monetary sum did afford him a roof over his head with steady meals for a lifetime, which as irony dictates was what he had before his release; it was in fact that around which his punishment was crafted. Nevertheless, one substantial distinction would be how post-incarceration he would arrange his living space and the time within it.
The first thing he did was acquire twenty years of lost history in the form of mostly out-of-print nonfiction reading material, which, nomenclature aside, was fiction insofar as the digestion of such would give its readers — amongst whom numbered the accused’s next of kin — the impression that our then not-yet newly freed lifer had been, beyond the kind of doubt maintained as reasonable, guilty of the crime for which he’d been judged: He gathered two decades of daily & weekly newspaper- and monthly & bimonthly magazine back issues and arranged them in a library of sorts that he had furnished with wall-to-wall shelves from ceiling to floor. As timing would have it, it was still just easy enough with a certain sum of money and the use of the postal service to obtain in pulp form everything he considered necessary to catch up on the past.
Adjacent to the makeshift library — to previous tenants a bedroom — was a walk-in closet that served a threesome of panels on which to pin and notate developments of interest, of which he would feed one above all. This habit eventually expanded, then relocated to the living room cum bedroom cum catchall for hanging periodical clippings and observations thereof. The bathroom remained a bathroom, the kitchen a kitchen. This aside, the living-working space diverged from its occupant’s previous quarters by an additional four hundred square feet that accommodated the aerobics that succeeded the prisoner’s calisthenics.
He didn’t subscribe to any contemporary journals. Correspondingly, he made no use of television except as a monitor to watch archival video footage of newscasts and special reports of both the local and not so local sort. His idea was explicit: He’d start every day with the morning paper, each week with a few magazines, and a recorded broadcast in & between. One’d think he might not be disinclined to skip forward, or peek to the most recent publication, which’d be the paper from the day before his release, and work backward, but he began and pressed steadily onward vacant evident temptation to deviate from the plan. Day 1 was to be the date he served his first day behind bars. He scheduled twenty years to get caught up — only to be still when he finished twenty years behind.
It was however the choice of the convicted in this case to take back the past taken from him, and in a manner befitting that of a free person unencumbered by undue haste. He had anyway no interest in the life outside, although it was exactly this life outside that was denied him by a sentence sufficient to balance the severity of the series of felonies that had been hung upon him, justly unjust as that latter rendering would have it. The time churning outside his window manifest so little in his outward bearing irrespective of his actual interest, which had been decisively tempered by the dearth of personal contact for over seven thousand three hundred and twenty-two days and nights. It shouldn’t surprise one that it turned out to be the routine outing necessary to purchase provisions for nourishment and hygiene that loomed in an increasingly burdensome manner in very short order. He had over the course of one hundred seventy-six thousand hours learned the odd, involuntary art of not breathing the abundance of outside air. With a refresher of a mere week under the broad light of the partially cloud-covered sun, and the general public he was at nerveracking odds to be around, did he manage to arrange full service of grocery and drugstore delivery and never left his apartment unit again except twice.
This was a further movement now forgone to additional irony, for in jail he was led daily from his concrete cube for a walk around the correctional complex, in lieu of which now emerged skipping rope and running in place. Another aspect diminished, human contact, went from six trips a week in the company of a prison guard to roughly one encounter with a delivery person in the same stretch of days.
In view of the ostensibly extreme approach of our recipient of off-the-books vindication, one might wonder with what temperament this ‘not getting on with his life’ would carry forward. Let alone concurrent with his backhanded deliverance, that which could be determined as justifiable embitterment towards a family who, in their absence of faith in the innocence and concomitant worthy humanity of their offspring, sibling, husband, and father, and their eventual abstinence from afforded visitation without which the prisoner in devastating degrees advanced in social petrification, it might be assumed that his days and nights would advance in anguish or hostility.
At the outset this assumption would bear out to be mistaken on the surface as our ambiguously liberated ex-con pored over his freshly funded free press articles with the enthusiasm of a dedicated historian, albeit as quasi real-time annalist. So too was the ritual that book-ended his frequent eighteen hour days disciplined. It commenced with Jane Fonda for fitness, continued through breakfast over the morning paper, made its way along with a stand & stretch break during the Lunch Hour Traffic Report, and kept itself abreast of frequent video news segments from a not quite concealed benefactor regularly delivered to the address sometimes in the nick of time for the analogous date, a day whose exercise was preceded by the marking of the calendar and which ended with the setting of the alarm clock.