Last night, my skill was tested, and I failed. During the third quarter of our year-long program in Oregon State Penitentiary we perform Mock Parole Board hearings. This mock parole hearings exercise enables those who are eligible for parole to practice their new skills in a situation that has enormous meaning for them; parole hearings are the gatekeepers to possible freedom.

I was denied parole during our exercise because the work I had done to rehabilitate myself was not thorough enough to inspire the parole board to believe that I was ready to make different choices were I to be released. I felt shame at being denied parole even though this was only an exercise, even though I would be driving home to my loved ones in a few hours. And I feel sad and torn remembering that some of the men in our program have been working on themselves for twenty years or more, have done everything that has been asked of them and more and, still, they are denied release.

Our communities need assurance that we are safe from those that commit violent acts. We also need assurance that those that have committed violence will not do so in the future, that those released have learned to address the needs in their lives differently. We are all equally human; we all make mistakes in the process of learning to be responsible social beings. I long for more support for those who are willing to do everything in their power to learn to make different choices and to make amends for the pain they have caused. I believe Oregon would benefit deeply from having many of these men back among us.

~Fred Sly