Parole Ahead

I recently became aware that Mark Taylor will be eligible for his first parole hearing in 2012.  We won’t know the exact date for some months; hopefully we will have a date by January or February.  It would be unusual with California’s track record that he’d be released at his first hearing (in California inmates usually attend between three and five hearings before being granted parole.)  Yet I need to prepare for the hearing.  The whole family does.

I have known this was coming for a long time, and it does not bring up a lot of emotions.  I don’t get angry.  I still feel disappointment with humans who make terrible decisions, and I carry around the weight of that disappointment.  With my friends and family, their unjust struggles and suffering—cancer, financial—I empathize, I support, but I don’t get angry and rail against the universe.  I help however I am able and do my best to be supportive and a peacemaker.  I only scan the newspapers these days because there is so much suffering in the world that my shoulders get heavy with all the sadness.

The closest I got to anger with the Mark Taylor journey was when they let him out on bail.  I knew it was his American right, but he had just killed somebody, my son!  His bail had been set low, which made it easy for him to get out: he used his truck for the collateral.  I was a grieving mother and he was free to enjoy himself.  This did not feel right at the time.

At first, after the murder, I thought about Mark Taylor a lot (how could you not?  He killed my son.).  What kind of person would kill my son over a minor disagreement?  That is what motivated me to a verbal one-on-one dialogue with Mark Taylor.  I had told myself that I would give him the benefit of the doubt.  I would not go into the dialogue with any preconceived ideas or assumptions about what kind of person he was. But after I spent time with him, I saw that Mark Taylor was someone who blamed the rest of the world and took no responsibility for the crime he committed.  Once our encounter brought this home to me, I stopped thinking about him as intensely or frequently.  Whatever happens to his life now is because of him, and has nothing to do with me.

He has likely done nothing to reach out to his community (prison community) or taken advantage of programming.  The only information the family has access to is where he’s housed (the information is offered on a website with the inmate number).  I do know that he was transferred last year to another prison called Avenal.  I imagine that he hasn’t been disruptive, been in fights or a problem inmate; however my gut feels he is most likely the exact same person he was when he murdered Christopher.  Mark Taylor thought he was justified in taking the life of my son because of an argument over dishes.

With the hearing coming up, I feel that I have another big job to do because my son, Christopher, was murdered.  I know I will be opposing Mark Taylor’s release.  I wish I felt differently, but I don’t.  He shouldn’t be allowed on the streets because he blames the judicial system, the judge, the D.A. for his being in jail—and even our family—when the truth is that he’s in jail because he took a life, the life of my son.  He needs to take responsibility for his actions.

There are inmates for whom I have sent a letter of support to the Parole Board.  I know that these men have taken full responsibility for the consequences of the crime they committed, have done extensive “programming” in prison and feel remorseful.  They are different people than when they entered the prison system and have decided that they want change to occur.  Even if they are incarcerated for the rest of their lives, they will be positive members of their prison community.  Maybe, many years down the road Mark Taylor will make a similar decision.  I hope so.  One thing I am sure of: Mark Taylor needs to understand his consequences and take the responsibility for his actions before I am willing to support his release.

As the parole hearing approaches, I need to do my homework so I know what will be happening, and what I need to prepare for.  I’m going to meet with the D.A. who tried the case, meet with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and ask for guidance on just how the parole process works.  I’ll also speak with other families who have been through similar hearings to see what they experienced.

I will keep you all posted!

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