The following is an excerpt from a letter to a friend, who asked me about my children and my job (Originally posted 9/1/04):
Mothers amaze me, particularly single mothers, who truly are unsung heroes.
I just don't know how they do what they do.
My ex-wife left me in 1979, then chose in 1981 to take our children , David (7) and Sarah (4),and move back to our previous hometown area in Western Maryland (and then Southern Pennsylvania), while I remained in Indiana.
Although devastated by the separation from my children, fighting what then was diagnosed as terminal lymphatic cancer (my later, more recent experience with cancer was not a reoccurance, but a different kind of cancer), I was unable to relocate closer to my children until 1989, when I moved back to the Western Maryland/Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia area.
However, in the interim, I was given liberal visiting rights, holidays, and every Summer with my children.
Even my own family told me that a man just couldn't handle two small children on his own, not even just for the Summers.
It was really difficult, but it also was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it put me in awe of those women who do it year round.
David and Sarah are adults now, and I am so grateful for and to them.
Now, I've been living alone for a long time and more set in my reclusive ways than I'd like, but I remember.
You also asked about my job.
My background, skills, and preference are in public employment labor relations, but I accepted my current prison position on January 2nd, 1991, just to come in out of the rain. The background behind that is another story for another time.
I'm a Correctional Case Management Specialist, which is not a counselor, social worker, or psychologist.
I am not an inmate advocate.
Perhaps it's more akin to a criminologist in some ways.
My education and background is not in this field, but it did prepare me in the assessment, human dynamics, research, training, public forum speaking, and organization aspects of my current job.
I have a constantly changing caseload of over 200 male inmates (murderers, child abusers, rapists, etc.), and my office is in the bowels of the prison within a housing unit, involving lots and lots of one-on-one unarmed contact and interviews with inmates.
The job can be a soul-sucking experience, but it also provides many opportunities for personal growth and development, which also can be spiritual.
When an inmate is admitted to our prison and my caseload, one of my duties is to research their entire criminal history as well as the circumstances of their instant offense, and to determine if there are any outstanding military, federal, state, or local warrants, detainers, parole violations, or probation violations outstanding anywhere in the United States or our territories.
That involves lots of work with law enforcement and judicial systems all across the country, and can be extremely time consuming and frustrating.
I also make assessments for inmate programming eligibility, parole recommendations, and also their security levels (work release, home detention, higher or lower security, etc) as well as testify in court.
Part of my job also involves preparing paperwork and the authorization for their final release, involving lots of documentation, registration, and notification to various law enforcement and probation agencies throughout the country, especially for the sex offenders.
There's much more, but that's enough to give you a general idea of what I do.