Returning home to attend my dad?s funeral while serving a life sentence was unheard of and considered impossible. Not a single inmate in the Department of Corrections (DOC) serving a life sentence had ever been approved to attend a funeral. It would be too high of a ?security risk.?
In 1993, I was assigned to Vocational Office Services. It was mid-morning when my instructor informed me that I had to return to my housing unit to see my counselor. Inmates who have served time in the DOC know this is normally not good. My heart pounded as I walked back to my unit, wondering what bad news I would receive.
As I entered the counselor?s office, she had a look of sadness, disappointment, and most of all, a look of resentment in her eyes because she had to give me the bad news. I sat down and asked her to ?just tell me.? She said, ?Your father passed away last night and you need to call home immediately.? I began to cry as I felt a combination of pain and inexplicable emotions.
I was helped to the inmate phones to call my sister by close associates. My sister and I cried together. My sister asked, ?Will you be able to come?? I said, ?I don?t know. I?m serving a life sentence with possibility of parole, but I have never seen a prisoner serving a life sentence get approved to attend a funeral.? As our phone call was ending, we reaffirmed our love for one another. I told her I was going to ask my counselor about the possibility of attending the service. We were filled with joy in that moment, as we thought about me being able to come home.
I returned to my counselor?s office and requested permission to attend my father?s funeral, asking her to please process the necessary paperwork for the Warden?s signature. She answered by stating, ?Yes, however, I will be recommending the request be denied per CDRC Title 15, which clearly states that inmates serving LWOP shall not be approved for a Temporary Community Leave (TCL).? I told her I understood her position, but in my mind Title 15 was not clear in my case since my sentence is life with the possibility of parole.
I don?t know what it was, but I had such confidence and assurance that I would be going to my father?s funeral. I began planning the song I would sing. Institutional staff and inmates kept reminding me of the odds against my request.
The paperwork was sent up the chain of command for additional signatures. This was Wednesday. On Friday, at approximately 2:45pm, the housing unit officer summoned me to the officer?s station and said I had an institutional call. The caller said, ?This is CO ?XX? and I will be escorting you to your father?s funeral. Your request has been approved!?
?Daddy, I?m coming home,? was all I could say.