Incarceration Affected My Life, My Family and My Friends
Today’s story is from Karl who is sharing how incarceration affected his life and how he made it through the arrest, incarceration, and release through the love and support of his friends and family. He learned the meaning of true friendship and the value of freedom.
Listen to interview here:
One thing I learned is that people who have gone through hardships in their lives such as being arrested or something else, are the ones that have the compassion for the people that also go through the same sort of incidences or experiences.
(Minor edits for easier reading)
Karl: This started back in 2010. It was unexpected on my part. There was an incident that occurred in which I was interviewed by the police in which I told the truth. About a month later they showed up at my door to arrest me. I went through all the processing. I didn’t know really what was going on. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it turns out it was a big deal according to some people’s eyes. I eventually went to trial.
When they came to your house was anybody home?
Yes. My wife at the time and my daughter were there. My wife was actually the one that answered the door. I had told her what happened before, and in fact, she didn’t think anything of it. When she opened the door she came running back in saying, “It’s the police and they want to talk to you”.
I went to the door and they said, “Unfortunately we’re going to have to take you in”. I was in shock; I didn’t know what to expect. They knocked on the door about 6:30 in the morning. So, I went in and did the processing.
I went through this process called the loop where you get booked and it’s kind of like musical chairs. I think it was more of a mind game for everybody because they would put you in a holding cell and after an hour pull you out and put you in a bigger holding cell with about 20 to 30 other people. Another 45 minutes, they pull you out and put you in another cell. I didn’t see what the purpose of that entire process was.
It was the first time in my life being arrested and probably the scariest time in my life because I heard stories of people being arrested; you see all the movies and see all the shows about how people get assaulted in there and fights break out. You are basically on your own. I was on edge the entire time, not making eye contact with anybody to not get into an argument. I just pretty much kept my eyes down and whenever there was an open seat, I just sat myself down and tried to keep to myself as much as possible.
Later on I came to understand that my wife had actually bailed me out early that same morning, but they kept me there the entire day. It was essentially a 12 to 15-hour process when it could’ve been done in literally 2 to 3 hours.
So when you were arrested did she go straight to the court to bail you out, or did she call an attorney?
Yes, she called an attorney. In preparation for all this, we just said, just in case, I called a couple of friends who were attorneys and essentially had people on call in case anything ever did happen. So fortunately we had them on call and they helped guide her through everything and for the most part we were prepared, but not expecting it.
When I finally walked out of the jail it was obviously a different experience for both of us. It turns out that more people found out about me that same day because there was some media coverage on this incident, which blew my mind. I wasn’t expecting anything of this nature, and unfortunately because of modern times of media and social media and how quickly people can access news at their fingertips through smart phones it spread among friends and family and everybody else in the community. Because of that there’s still articles online about this entire incident. I’m not proud of it one bit. It’s been about seven years since this happened, however till this day I still feel like I am battling some of those demons. So it’s not easy. I’ve done my time with it.
After you were released how long before you went to court?
Because it was a misdemeanor I was free on bail and it was one of the lowest bail possible; it was under $1000. So again, we didn’t think it was a big issue. Fortunately, because it was a misdemeanor I did not have to show for the pretrial types of court appearances, but my attorneys would constantly fill me in as to what was going on and trying to strike deals with the DA. The DA, because of the media exposure, wanted to make me an example and hammer me with everything.
Was your wife or anybody there in the courtroom with you when you went to trial?
I went through trial by myself. Not that I didn’t want anybody there, but I didn’t ask anybody to be there. It would’ve been nice to have somebody there, but I didn’t ask anybody to be there.
So you didn’t ask anybody, however you said it would be nice if somebody was there? It would be good for people on the outside to know that their loved one may not ask them to be in court with them, however if they could make themselves available that it would be good to be there to support their loved one.
Oh definitely. It’s all eyes on you up there. You’re on the defense. After going through this process, I truly realize that it’s not innocent until proven guilty when going through this trial. When you’re sitting behind that desk, right there, all eyes on you, you’re guilty until proven innocent. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re back there, if you are the defendant, everyone is thinking that this guy is only here because he did something. Not, okay he’s innocent, let’s see if the prosecution can actually prove him to be guilty; it was an uphill battle the entire way.
I’ve been on juries myself prior to this. So, I know what’s going through the mind of the jurors, so it was interesting so see it from that point of view. Like I said, I didn’t ask anyone to be there, but it would’ve been nice to turn around and actually see somebody there in my corner.
Was there a trial?
We ended up going to trial with jurors and the trial lasted for about three days. It felt like an eternity to me. Sitting up there, I was a nervous wreck. I was trying to keep my composure and my attorneys told me not to show too much emotion up there, whether happy or sad or that something’s funny try not to laugh, just keep everything subdued. Yeah there were some jokes that were cracked during the trial and yeah sometimes it’s hard to laugh. Yet other times they start trying to tear you down as if you’re a monster and it’s hard not to cry. I wouldn’t wish that experience upon anybody. It’s one of the worst feelings you could have: sitting there as the defendant.
What about work?
At that time I was actually in between jobs. I was on my way to start my own business. So in a way it was good because I didn’t have to report to an employer. Anyway, I was not working those days.
You also said that it was on the news and people around you knew. So did anybody approach you, were friend supportive, what was the atmosphere like around you?
My family supported me the entire time. They said that they don’t care what I did or did not do, we’re here for you. A lot of friends came out and did the same thing, which is a good feeling, but again I don’t know how much of it to believe. Some people who I thought were friends turned their backs on me. I took a look back at some of those relationships and thought: hey if you are only here during my good times, then I don’t need you going forward anymore. Yeah, you’re kicking me when I’m down, well you just make sure you’re living a perfect life going forward. Because guess what, when something happens to you, you’ll know what I was going through. It was tough, even after the trial and serving time, that some of my closest friends were uneasy; like there was a wall up between us. I could read their body language and told them that if there’s something that’s making them uncomfortable say it to my face, don’t try to hide it. If there’s something you want to ask me, then ask me. Unfortunately, some of them aren’t as strong as that and would rather just step aside and let that wall build up. So contact kind of diminished over time with some of my friends.
…until you go through it you won’t understand what it’s like in there, even if it’s for one day
That’s why raising awareness is to important so people know they can talk about it, and it’s not just what they see in the movies or on the news. It’s happening to real people, people that they know.
Yes, I know that feeling now, walking into a group that you’ve known for your entire life, you’ve gone to school with, gone through all types of trials and tribulations and different experiences, that they can now look at me and think they don’t know me. That hurts for who I am. Hey, I’m the same guy, the same guy this entire time; nothing has changed with me.
People who I thought would be there were for a little while and then dropped off and other people who were more on the acquaintance level ended becoming now my closest friends. Even people who I hadn’t met yet but knew what happened, who I later then met also ended up becoming close friends of mine because they’ve had things happen in their lives in the past. They took me for face value. They didn’t care what I’ve gone through and said whatever I did or did not do brought you to the point where you and I are now face-to-face building our own relationship. So those are the people I value most now. Not the people who say we’re good friends, but when I call them, they’re not there. It was eye-opening for me and a way for me to filter out a lot of people.
It sucks that it has to happen this way, but it was a reality check. It was an eye-opening experience for myself because it got me out of a not-so-good marriage and at the same time brought new people into my life in which I’ve had great experiences with both professionally and personally and has made me more appreciative of my daughter. So, there’s a couple of different ways you can look at this. I look at it in the most positive light, but there are still times when that darkness sets in and gives me a flashback.
Going back to when you were in court, did they take you away right away?
No they didn’t. Since it was a misdemeanor I was free to go; I was free on bail. My attorney wanted to appeal the rule, so I was free to go until the judgement on the appeal. That was over a year until the appeal that I was free.
During that time were you able to work?
Yes, I ended up starting my own business. It forced me to do that, which was good because I didn’t have the courage to do it before. This forced me to do it and it became a very successful business.
I would be in constant communication with my appellate attorney so he could provide timelines and where they were in the process. He provided the date to me that I would have to turn myself in if I had to serve my time. He told me to prepare and I did. During that time I was able to grow the business, to set everything in motion that I had to set. Accounts that needed to be paid were set up on auto-pay; everything was automated so I didn’t have to rely on anybody. Fortunately my cousin was able to handle some of the monthly affairs such as logging into the accounts and making sure everything was in place.
I had a business partner and told him, “Here’s the road-map to follow,” and we did it and we maintained our contact. So I prepared to the best of my abilities and my appellate attorney even commended me for it.
Some of the people you met in prison were not people you normally interact with. After serving time in prison did you come out with a different point of view on people?
Definitely. It was eye-opening in the sense that it allowed me to dispel any prejudices against anybody. It forced me to take everyone at face value. Again, I didn’t ask and I don’t know what people did, nor did I volunteer what I did. Some people did tell me and I didn’t care. I was like, okay you don’t have to tell me anything; I don’t care what you did. As long as you and I are good in here and we can hold a conversation and let time pass and do our time without any incidence, then we’re fine. I made a couple of good friendships while I was in there. Guys I would’ve never come into contact with outside. But then again, they had an eye-opening experience themselves which brought them there. Everyone had a low point that brought them there, and we all had that in common and we just had to make the most of it. So why not enrich each other’s lives by carrying on a conversation, sharing a book that you just read last week: here read this one next. And you just start talking about other topics to take your mind off of being in there, being behind the walls.
There are a handful of people that I do write to. The prison does open up your letters and read them, but if it’s an innocent how are you letter, updating each other on what’s going on in your life, then you should be fine.
One of the best things while in there was receiving gifts like care packages from loved ones outside, like a book. It was just good to know that people are still thinking about you and care for you while you’re in there.
Did you have visitors?
Yes, visitors were allowed Friday through Sunday and there was a two-hour time slot that they were allowed to show, depending on which group they were in. Someone from my family was always there. They were very supportive and I needed it. It was tough in there.
When they visited what kind of things were you able to do?
We just talked as if we were talking on the phone, as if we were sitting at Starbucks, just talking about normal life. Obviously they had questions about what it was like for me, if I was okay, if I was safe. They wanted to know what kind of food I was eating. I shared with them what I could and shared more with them when I got out in terms of some of the experiences I went through and the things that I saw when I was in there. I gave them advice too, in case they ever got arrested.
Any other advice for our audience?
Don’t get into a fight, don’t pick a fight. Obviously if you need to defend yourself, then defend yourself, but don’t be the aggressor. Stay low-key. Put your head down, do your time, and get out. Don’t try to be a hero, don’t try to make it your life, just put your head down and do what you’re told by the guards and you’ll be fine.
Was there anything else you did?
I had given my parents money before I had gone in so they could replenish my account so that I could purchase other types of food than the allotted three meals that they had in there. Ramon noodles was one of the options you could purchase through the commissary. Writing materials, just little knick-knacks to keep your stomach filled in between meals, shampoos, soaps, things of that nature.
Not everyone knows that everything is not provided to the inmates. So anyone that can provide additional funds to their loved ones in prison, that does make their stay a little bit easier.
It does. Fortunately for me because I still did have an income while I was in there, I would see some of the guys that didn’t have anything. As I got to know them I would give them things. You know if I saw this guy that was short on, something like deodorant or he’d want some cookies, I would buy them. They would ask me what I’d want for it and I’d say, “Nothing, just say thank you”. That’s all I want. I know it’s hard and not everybody has money.
Before I went in I did watch a lot of documentaries and shows to mentally prepare for what I was going to walk into and it helped. It did make me think a little bit too much on the dangerous side and I would think this guy walking towards me is going to try to do something to me. At least it gave me some awareness by watching some of the shows and documentaries that actually helped me a lot, mentally, as to what to expect.
Being in there did you find that reality may have been a little bit different than some of these shows?
A lot of it is sensationalized on t.v. and in the media, but if you look for trouble, you can definitely find it. Fights and other things do happen. If you look for it you will find it. I went in there with some of this knowledge, not thinking I would do it myself, but just having an eye out for it and I did see things that I didn’t think were true, but they were true and happening right in front of me. It was a different viewpoint that I had going in maybe as opposed to some other guys.
For visitation did your daughter ever come visit?
No, she didn’t. Though it killed me not to be able to see her, I didn’t want her to coming to the prison. We did have calls and talk to her, so that was good.
What about writing?
I didn’t write many letters but people wrote to me. It was always nice when the guards came by with mail. It was always a little nice surprise, it was always good. It just keeps you going knowing that somebody is thinking about you and you are not forgotten.
How did you find out when you were getting out?
I basically created my own calendar when I was in there and counted down the days. I remember getting a couple of visits from my attorney and just making sure that the date was still the same date we had talked about. I would relay that information to my family. On the day I was finally released my parents and cousin were there to pick me up. We gave each other hugs and went home. Done. It was a relief. I wanted to talk so much and just brain-dump everything. It was such a big relief to walk out because for one: I walked through processing again which was a different area and I ended up walking through the lobby of where my family would always wait. I finally got to see what they were talking about whenever they would visit me, saying how long line was outside, we had to sign in and the lobby was full. In my head I was always wondering what this thing looked like. So when I walked through the lobby I was able to relive what they had been talking about.
So you served your sentence?
No, I was actually on probation for a while. I was on probation after the trial and then they had to put it on hold while I served my time. I was able to continue on with my life even being on probation. I would have to check in once a week. Then after the probation date it was “wow” it’s finally here. Now I’m done, free and clear!
It’s really important to meet your probation dates because if you don’t you could go back in.
Oh yeah. And I wasn’t going to give them any reason to pull me back in. No way. There were some people that I knew of who did violate their probation because they didn’t check in and/or I don’t know, some people have different stipulations, like they can’t leave the county or the state, whatever it may be, and they did do it and they got caught, and they went back in. So I just put my head down until that date and after that I’m free.
When you did come out and were free, what was your relationship like with family members? Was there anybody that said anything that you remember or want to share?
My mom told me that this is just a short part of my life and it’s over. You know you made a mistake, now move on. That’s it, she just told me to move on. Don’t think about it anymore even though it’s hard.
During that time and even up to that time of the trial it was still tough on family. Even though it wasn’t them being put on trial they could see the pain that I was going through. So they were internalizing it themselves and they were always worried for me because they didn’t know if I could go through it. Nobody in my family had ever been through that process.
So you found an inner strength.
Oh yes. I had to, I had no other option.
Did your daughter have any issues at school or anything?
No, she was still young at the time. When it’s time to tell her, then I’ll tell her. Up until then I’m still daddy. People have told me that one day I’m going to have to tell her. One day, and I’ll worry about it when that day comes.
There were guys that I spoke to in there, and we did have conversations about our children. Based on what they did some of their kids basically disowned them. That sucks, I don’t know how they could go through that. One guy had five children and they all stopped talking to him. There was no contact.
It’s so nice to hear your story and about your family support. You don’t know when it’s going to happen and it changes your life, just like that. The more that people know about it, the more people can be prepared, and the more that we raise awareness people can make changes needed going forward.
One thing I learned is that people who have gone through hardships in their lives such as being arrested or something else, are the ones that have the compassion for the people that also go through the same sort of incidences or experiences. I’ve noticed that the people who have become my closest friends ever since were people who had incidents happen to themselves or a family member, so they knew what it was like, and they knew that you’re not a bad person. It’s just that something happened and they treated me at face value – nothing more and nothing less. They knew what I was convicted of and as long as we treat each other with respect we can forget the past and move forward.
I think it’s good advice what you’re sharing and what your mom said, too. Just to bring things to a close, is there anything else you want to share with the audience, who might have a loved one in prison? Things that might help them feel better, because when you have someone in pain, in prison, you’re feeling the pain, too. It’s different, of course, however you’re still feeling pain. So maybe there’s something you could share with our audience that would help them.
Just be there for them. Continue to write them letters, send them little care package if possible, put money in their account so they can purchase items, for items that they would normally purchase on the outside to give them a sense of home would be nice. Just know that they want to be outside with you more than anything; they don’t want to be in there, no matter how long they’ve been in there or how many times they’ve been in there, they’d rather be with you than be inside locked up behind walls. So just be there for them.
How do you feel about hearing things happening on the outside? Sometimes people don’t want to tell their loved ones these great things that are happening.
I think that’s on a case by case scenario, because there were good things that happened on the outside while I was locked up, that yes it’s great news, but deep inside yes I was not able to experience it with them. It does hurt a little bit, but I think not knowing that news or them not sharing that news with me would’ve hurt more. So I’d say, share the news, but maybe not get overly excited about it, but mention it.
What about phone calls, because you’d have to call collect in most facilities. Is it a bummer when you call the person and they are not there? Do you think it’s a good idea to schedule calls and did you do that?
Yes, once I found out what my calling schedule would be I would relay that information to my family whenever they visited. They were the ones on top of me asking what my schedule was for that week. They would make sure that they would be free those hours and I don’t think they ever missed one call when I was in there. Everyone was supportive. I hope everyone that is ever locked up has that support outside, but unfortunately that is not always the case.
What would you say to your family right now if they were here?
Thank you! That’s it…just thank you. Because until you go through it you won’t understand what it’s like in there, even if it’s for one day. You wouldn’t know what it’s like in there.
I also had a friend who was arrested, and knowing what the entire process was like I was down there within two hours and bailed him out. I didn’t know how strong this person was, and I knew what he was about to go through and it’s going to suck. So I drove over there and bailed him out.
Pay it forward