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We had 2 murders in one week in our community. Both were robberies. Both fitting the usual pattern of senseless death; devastating, terrifying, puzzling, and unresolved.
The first was one of our younger defendants on probation, shot in the head by his cousins while they were trying to rob him. From what I could tell, he was a young man trying to get his life back on track. He reported when he was scheduled, was respectful, and seemed to be getting his ducks in a row. Yet when he is not just robbed but killed while it was happening, I can’t help but question what was really going on in his life. My gut tells me he might have been robbed at gun point because his cousin who knew him well, suspected he had a lot of cash worth taking at such a high risk. Most of the young people around here with a lot of cash on them are selling drugs. Who knows if we will ever really know the truth about his life and what happened.
The second murder was at a local convenience store. A man entered the store on Thursday night aiming a firearm and had disguised his identity. On Friday morning 2 separate defendants reported to me, both that had been there the night before. They both told me they had a “feeling” to leave the store, and both did. They stated the convenience store owner that was killed was friendly to everyone, was known to keep large amounts of cash around, and had gambling machines in the back of the store. It appears from video surveillance recovered from the scene that the gunman was precise in his behavior. He knew when to enter, where the money was, and how to exit quickly without getting caught.
It seems obvious both of these murders were pre meditated, although to different degrees. Clearly in the first case the killer knew the victim, but I would not doubt the same is true in the second homicide. Greed is deadly. And now one community and 2 families and are left to grieve in the destructive aftermath. Wondering if we are safe, will the killers be caught, and when will this madness end?
Photo courtesy of the Warner Robins Police Department
Today was a first at work for me. Not that someone failed a drug test, but that she was pregnant. I cannot think of anything much sadder. It is one thing to knowingly/willingly destroy yourself with drugs and alcohol, but not an innocent fetus.
When she first arrived a coworker immediately made a comment in my ear that this defendant was going to fail her drug test. After I met with her, her disheveled appearance was a red flag. She was covered in white fuzz which I commented to her about. My initial concern was she had an extreme case of lice. She assured me it was “fuzzy” from her blanket. My next thought was why she didn’t at least run a brush through her hair before reporting to her probation officer.
The first time we went to the toilet, she tried but couldn’t urinate. She joked she was “gun-shy” about peeing in front of her probation officer. I gave her some water and told her to sit in the lobby until she was ready. About 20 minutes later we tried again. She was very eager to see her results. She had an absolute fail for marijuana, and a potential for benzos and meth.
She stated to me that she failed for marijuana because she hadn’t been able to eat and so she finally smoked to get an appetite a few weeks ago. Possibly the dumbest lie/excuse I have ever heard for getting high.
With a nervous smile on her face she told me it was time to clean up her act and stop using. Sadly it wasn’t being pregnant that made her want to be clean, but the regret of failing a drug screen while on probation.
My heart is so sad for the children brought into this world in these types of scenarios.
I have been inspired this week of readings about elegance, Bukowski, travel, strippers, and murder. Not nearly even close to that order. Many people have a taste for knowledge in matters that vary from what is prim and proper to bordering darkness, and even depravity. Some are openly intrigued, while others hide behind glowing screens in secret delightful fascination. I prefer open discussion on most matters, even when others scoff I am being “inappropriate”. Historically I was sensitive to ridicule about such things, but as I age I learn the secret joy that one gains as they near the grave. I don’t give a shit. Another life lesson, most of us are also full of shit. Hiding on some level within us all, are depths of insecurity and fear so beyond our reach we operate dutifully in accordance with the simple notion we can avoid their terrible outcome and risk their very exposure. What is the fun in that. I run towards my fears as fast as I can because once we collide I find, they were not worth the power I allowed them to hold over me.
We are existing in an era of illusion that technology has helped to create. People exist behind social media posts, pages, and photographs that advertise lives of perfection. Perfect happiness, perfect relationships, perfect vacations, perfect plates of pasta, and it is all perfectly bullshit. Please do not mistake me for a cynic. Sure, I have had perfect pasta, but not every plate is perfect. Not everything in anyone’s life is.
Take me for example. My life is perfectly messy. I get stressed out at work, I have bad hair days, my family annoys me at times-and I them. My house needs to be cleaned right now, but here I sit on my arse writing honestly about it. I am a perfect mess, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
In conclusion; be yourself, embrace your bullshit as well as your imperfect life, and enjoy all of it. The pain makes us grow, and growth prepares us and leads to things that are even better.
I can hardly believe it was over 2 years ago that this blog began as a way to help me sort through the insane emotional experiences I was having as a teacher in an all male maximum security prison. I had no clue it would progress in the way that it has, even leading to my first book. It has been a great source of comfort in allowing me to sort through my joy, fears, and difficult life lessons. And thanks to you; my devoted readers who support me, share with me, and lift me up!
Work has kept me so busy the writing I do in my head rarely makes it into print these days. Perhaps this explains why I have had such intensely vivid dreams, one if which ended with someone breaking into my office and shooting me three times in the skull. If you are one of my devoted readers, then you know how seriously I take my work. My dreams are usually a gage I can use to detect my stress levels, I think this test reveals I am failing.
So much has happened in such a short period of time. Everyday working with law enforcement takes my life in a million different directions. Emotionally it is fulfilling and draining all at once. Spiritually it is uplifting and soul crushing at the rate of the speed of light, changing so drastically from one second to the next. Some defendant’s I want to cry for, some with, and some leave me in utter disbelief over their self sabotaging ways.
I began writing a second book. Then I finished. Now I choose not to publish it because my own belief is my work is never good enough. Probation often times leaves me with that very same feeling. My work is never finished, I could have done better, and I wonder if I will ever really learn everything there is to know and master in the crazy work we do.
Thank goodness I am surrounded by so many professionals that are better and more advanced than me. I cling to every morsel of knowledge they drop, hoping it will get me through another moment…perhaps even another day.
I think one thing that I struggle with the most, or at least at the top of my list is the dreaded drug testing. Sharing the space with another human in such a vulnerable moment, with their pants down trying to pee in a cup 3 feet away from you. Protocol deems that we observe them, to ensure they aren’t falsifying their results. It’s gross and humiliating, for both of us. If you have never experienced a drug test, you’re lucky. If you have never experienced an observed drug test, you are blessed.
So the offender shows up for his scheduled appointment at probation. Upon arrival he is given his urine cup for a surprise drug test. When they look nervous, it is usually a dead give away they already know they will fail it. Some will fess up that they have drugs in their system, and some will pray and take a chance they will get a false negative and possibly pass. It is a good sign when they seem willing to take the test. After going to the bathroom and still not coming out after a half hour….you start to wonder what happened to them. Upon checking the bathroom, it is dark and empty. This is a first, the offender took off… with his urine cup.
I am not sure this story trumps offender number two. When he gets a surprise visit at work today, he ran out the back door while officers entered through the front. Knowing he was going to get a violation for failing his drug test, he ran away so he could get high just one more time before getting arrested.
Enter offender number 3. He shows up at the office and claims he will pass his drug test. Then he fails two. He is only 18, and facing felony charges. His probation officer brings his mother into the room, and lays out the consequences. Failing this test, he has risked throwing away every chance the court has given him. This violation (if the court decides) could revoke his bond and send him away to prison for a very long time. His mother begins to cry, eventually so does he. The icing on the loser cake, he admits to using drugs with another offender on our probation caseload.
While working in prison I had an 18-year-old in one of my classes. It was obvious he was a good kid, and did not belong behind bars. He had been on probation, but just would not stop partying. He was given more chances than most people could dream of. Eventually the judge had no other choice, maybe prison would straighten him out. I guess sometimes that is what it takes. Some people have to learn in the hardest way. Some just never learn.