This past weekend, I had the great privilege of meeting and chatting with a man who spent 25 years of his life serving time for accessory to murder. We talked mostly about his case and his re-acclimation to life when he got out. He was incarcerated in the 70s and released comparatively recently. In one anecdote he related, he got into trouble for getting too near a car. The owner had remotely locked the doors. That caused the car to honk. He thought someone in the car was honking at him, so he approached the car.
There is no training for these men when they are released. They are simply set free. For them, it is as if they had stepped through a time machine. Personal computers did not exist when he went in. There were no CDs, DVDs. In fact, these things were just waning. Giving out a cell number must have seemed like a prison reference. The space shuttle and the Concorde were new. Rocky movies were just getting started.
Many of these newly freed men, having developed no new social skills in prison, simply return to their old neighborhoods, find any former friends that might still be alive, pick up the same patterns and end up back in the same place. This guy was different. He set himself up in a small village and surrounded himself with a few older men who became his mentors. He gradually worked himself back into society until now he has purchased his own house and has no trouble finding work. He has even written a book!
But, that’s not all of it. Our man experienced a bizarre case.
I’m careful not to say that he is not guilty. He never said it. He simply explained that he had a bizarre case and carried around the court briefing to show it. Lorenzo was an insurance salesman. He helped out his friend. His friend was arrested for murder. His friend said that Lorenzo knew about the murder. His friend later testified that he had lied about that. This so-called friend was incarcerated for two murders. Neither of those where the murder for which he was arrested. Lorenzo was sentenced to life.
That’s right, there were three murder cases. Two for which Lorenzo’s friend was incarcerated. One for which Lorenzo was incarcerated. But remember, Lorenzo was convicted of accessory after the fact. So, the man who lied on Lorenzo was never convicted of the murder for which Lorenzo was incarcerated as an accessory. We all know how that’s possible. But, it doesn’t seem right to me.
I made this comment to him about being in prison for 25 years for something he didn’t do: “That could make a man awfully bitter.”
His non sequitur response floored me. I felt it touch a nerve in me. I was shamed by it.
“There’s a lot of people in prison,” he said, “They just aren’t behind bars.”
NOTE: Lorenzo’s book is not about his prison story. Also, it is self-published, so caveat emptor. He told me he is writing his prison story. When that becomes available, I will probably buy it and read it. Watch my blog for the announcements. I’ll try to remember to post an update here.