July 11, 2055 – That’s the day my parole sentence expires. In 1993 I was sentenced to 20–60 years. After serving 18.5 years I was granted parole after my initial hearing. I have been on parole for a little over two years. Even though I have been called “The Poster Child” for reentry in D.C. I remain on high-level supervision with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA).
Being on parole has become a mere fact of my life, and I’m so grateful to be home that I hardly allow it to impact me. There are those times when my Parole Officer comes to my job in a bulletproof vest, but then there are times when another Parole Officer will allow me the opportunity to juggle my schedule, even if means visiting her in the evening after work. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the possibility of early termination from parole.
The first time my parole officer submitted my package for early termination I asked for a copy of her report and it read:
“Offender appears to be in action stage of change at this time as she works towards obtaining her own housing and maintaining her pro-social status in the community. Offender has the criminogenic risk factors of a violent criminal history and past substance abuse issues.” I was denied.
The bulletproof vest-wearing Parole Officer believes I possess criminogenic tendencies based on my past criminal behavior. That was a hard pill to swallow. A year passed and I was assigned to a new parole officer. I requested early termination again, and my package was submitted to the parole commissioner for the second time. I asked for a copy of her report and it read:
“Ms. Etheridge appears to be in the Maintenance Stage of change as evidenced by her stellar compliance. She is a pleasant, self-sufficient, and highly motivated individual who serves as a role model to all Returning Citizens. She has spoken at many events and trainings within the DC metropolitan area on behalf of her agency (ORCA). Her criminogenic risk factor is her criminal history; however, despite her anti-social past, Ms. Etheridge has continued to thrive…” Once again I was denied.
So I take it as it comes, maintaining an attitude of gratitude, striving to define myself for myself and continuing to do the next right thing, thinking positive knowing that I control my destiny.