The news came to me on Christmas Eve while talking to a friend about dreams of a future with my wife and children. They included enjoying the holidays together. The hope of those visions occurring for us all was thwarted by the news that friend would soon deliver.
“Hey. You didn’t get clemency.”
He had heard the unfortunate news that Governor Cuomo had only granted seven people sentence commutation, better known as clemency, and I was not one of them.
I was taken aback at first and questioned the authenticity of what he said. After verifying it quite thoroughly I felt a numbness arise in me. It was the same feeling you get when you hear of a loved one passing. It was the feeling you get when all of your hope is deflated.
The hope of being home for the new year, or our daughter’s third birthday, and even caring for my wife who is battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma were eliminated by the devastating news.
My wife, who has placed her life on hold for me for nearly seven years, sacrificing her own hopes and dreams, is all I thought about. How could I continue to make her suffer the daunting and challenging life that is being a prisoner’s wife?
I felt filthy, as if I had done some great indiscretion. Guilt consumed me, and ate away at any attempt of my heart righting itself with thoughts of love, overriding rationality. I felt that I had let my wife and children down by getting their hopes up in a system that is notorious for being unfair and partial.
I did not want her to continue to have to suffer, so I contemplated asking her to leave. I wanted her to abandon me and this awful life while she still could. I began to think that was the noble thing to do. I told myself that she deserved a life that brought her joy, and someone to share that life with.
I would no longer be her jailer.
She could be a free woman. In many ways, I saw it as me granting her clemency.
What is nobility? Or rather, who are we to deem what is the noble path to take when it regards another human life? Asking my wife to leave and salvage her life only seemed good on my end because of the hurt I felt. I was not thinking about how she would feel if I asked her to leave. I felt selfish. Asking her to leave was the easy way out of the pain I felt. It would cause her more pain telling her to quit and throw in the towel after all she had risked and sacrificed for me. I couldn’t do it.
I tried to work through the stress of the news, but it was so traumatic. I fell asleep that night in despair, the night of Christmas Eve, when despair from being away from my family is already consuming.
All hope was lost.
On Christmas morning I tried to put on a strong face. I tried to show joy on this most festive of days. I was desperate to speak to my wife on one of the only four phones for over fifty men to use in the block. I patiently waited for my moment, and as soon as I heard my wife’s voice my strong joyous visage crumbled. I became a mess. I could also hear the despair and sorrow in her voice. It was crippling. I could not encourage her. I too had hoped against hope and was let down. Again. I too was empty.
We both were absolutely crushed by the news.
We spent most of our call wallowing in the awful news that we were not recipients of clemency. I briefly spoke to our children about all the nice gifts they received, and how happy they were, but my mind was on the terrible news.
To me, this meant I was not worthy of mercy, nor of justice. It meant that I was unfit for clemency, and that those few who were chosen were more deserving than I. I felt forgotten. Overlooked. But more so, I felt like a failure.
Not to my own esteem, but to my wife and children who are far more deserving of my freedom. They are the ones who will truly suffer as a result.
Am I angry? Yes! However, I am far more hurting for my wife and children. Many don’t comprehend the hardships they face with having a husband and father in prison. It is a lonely existence. Our relationship is held together by infrequent phone calls, visits, and letters.
We are unable to connect and build strong family bonds in the ways most families are afforded.
Unfortunately, when the Covid pandemic hit those few life lines we cherished were further hindered. I have not seen my wife and children in months. Our visits, where we would be able to at least comfort and reassure one another of the love we share, have been eliminated.
We are struggling to maintain.
The devastating news we received on Christmas Eve hurt like hell, but it did not break us, nor did it make us stronger.
It was a blow that could not have hit at a worse time.
However, I know there is a God out there who is just and shows mercy. Although our hope of obtaining clemency is lost, we will create hope where there is none.
For God is merciful and just and it is in Him that we put our trust.
We fight on!
Clemency is a power the Governor can use at any time, for as many people as he chooses. Please let him know that he has forgotten Jacob Rouse and should grant him clemency today! Especially considering Elmira prison remains closed due to a pandemic and his family has been unable to visit for months. In fact, Elmira has been shut down far longer than any other prison in New York State.
Contact the Governor by phone: 1-518-474-8390