I’d just started reading through the morning’s collection of emails when my office phone rang. It was one of my colleagues, a social worker who had some information to pass on.
“Your patient Mr. X spoke with his attorney yesterday and found out he’s been resentenced by the court. Looks like he’ll be going home in about five days. Just wanted to give you a heads up.”
I knew that Mr. X was a third-strike lifer who qualified for resentencing after California passed Prop 36 a couple years ago. I couldn’t remember the circumstances of his case, though. I pulled up his file and refreshed my memory. According to reports, the officers on patrol saw him sitting on a curb with his head slumped down, so they stopped to “check on his welfare” and found .08 net grams of cocaine and a glass pipe in his possession. It was July of 1997. He was arrested, hauled off to county jail, and charged with possession of a controlled substance. He’d had a long history of theft-related offenses and already served five previous terms. Apparently, he was deemed a danger to society after this last arrest. The court sentenced him to 27 years to life. I am not exaggerating. That is a fact. He started the state prison term in April of 1998, and today is January 8, 2015. Keep in mind, too, that he’d been locked up since July of 1997, when he first went to county jail.
I picked up the phone and called Mr. X’s tier officer, who knew me and had no problem with my request that he locate Mr. X, write him a special pass, and send him over to Psych Services to see me.
Mr. X showed up within minutes. We went over some paperwork and I had him sign some forms, including a release of information authorizing the state to provide his health care information to county mental health for continuity of care after his release into the community. When we were done, I sat back and said, “Eighteen years is a long time to be in prison for getting caught slumped over on a curb with drugs in your pocket.”
“Aw, that’s not what really happened,” he said. “That’s what they put in the report.”
“So what really happened?” I said. “How’d you get arrested in the first place?”
“I was jaywalking,” he said. “And then when I saw them, I tried to backtrack, but it was too late. They got me.”