How can you describe the fear in your heart when your thirteen-year-old goes missing? Missing, you think, on some lark, some challenge to your authority…but, what if that isn’t it? What if some pervert picked him up? What if he went to some crazy party and used a drug that left him unconscious or unable to call home? What if he’s been hurt and is lying somewhere, cold and in pain? What if he’s lying in a ditch with his throat slit, or has suffered a hundred other horrible fates limited only by your imagination?
Well, you don’t sleep at all that first night. You sit awake in the dark waiting for the phone to ring. Your husband, your other children sleep, the house quiet, a muted light from the kitchen illuminates your spot by the phone. You smoke cigarette after cigarette, say prayer after prayer, “Please, God, let him be safe…let him be safe…let him be safe. Please…please…please.”
You will every car to slow as it approaches your house, to turn into your drive, to deliver your son to you, safe and sound, but your will is weak and it doesn’t happen.
You want to call the police, but your boy is already involved in the legal system. He’s on probation for vandalism, for destroying public property. You wonder what kind of consequence there would be for running away? Would they say he’s incorrigible? Would they send him to Boy’s School?
All your son’s friends say they don’t know where he is. They don’t act scared. They aren’t concerned. They know where he is, they just aren’t saying. You want to shake each of them until they give up the information. No, you want to pound them until they do.
In the morning you call Brad, the school principal. Your son has had some problems in school, so the two of you have talked a few times, almost enough to be on a first name basis. You call him “Bra-ad” derisively behind his back because you think he is such a pussy. “Bra-ad” already knows your boy is missing. He heard it from a kid who is friends with the kid that your son is with, but Brad isn’t giving any names.
Brad tells you he’s sure his information is solid. The kid that your son is hiding with comes from a good family. He knows there isn’t anything crazy going on. Your boy is probably safe. Brad’s tone suggests that maybe he’s even safer than he would be with your family, or maybe that’s your own guilt you’re hearing, but…
The principal is covering for a runaway child?
Your mind struggles to comprehend what you’re hearing. You ask if the parents of the hider know your son is being hidden. Brad thinks not. Your mind boggles anew at how an adult in a position of authority over your community’s children could be this deceptive. You imagine the potential liability for the hider’s parents and you wonder what miracle keeps your head from exploding.
Your hands are tied. You have no choice. It’s either involve authorities and risk more legal consequences for your son, or go with Brad, who has offered to persuade your son to come home using his student back-channel.
Four days. It takes four days of back and forth with Brad and his team of juveniles to secure a surrender. In the meantime, you learn through the grapevine that the kid your boy is hiding with is named “Jesse”, as in “Jessica.”
Jesus Christ in a sidecar, Brad.
You pick your son up and bring him home. You want explanations but you aren’t getting any. Your house is full of concerned family when you get home, but you manage to find a private place to talk with your son. He has no answers for you. He begins to cry as you tell him how scared you were and how glad you are he’s safe. You ask about Jesse and he cries harder. You ask what about Jesse makes him so upset. You move to comfort him; he buries his face in your shoulder and sobs, his thin body heaving. You tell your baby it will be ok. You ask if something bad happened between him and Jesse. You feel him shake his head ‘no.’ You ask did they do something they maybe weren’t ready for. His head shakes ‘yes’ this time, and he clings to you harder, he gasps between sobs as if stricken with some terrible grief.
Jesus Fucking Christ, Brad. Just what does ‘safe’ mean? And you, yeah, YOU… just what do legal consequences mean?
You decide it’s time for counseling.
December 28, 2018
The phone rings again. The caller ID says it’s Agent McDonald, the one I helped to arrest Micheal. I am hoping for good news so I answer quickly. I expect her to say the Parole Board has agreed to treatment instead of sending him back to prison. That isn’t what she says. She gets right to the point.
“I just got a phone call. Micheal has been released.”
“What?” I’m incredulous, “Why would they do that? I just sent a letter asking them to allow treatment,” I am beside myself. I don’t see reason in releasing him. Why did she arrest him to begin with?
She has no explanation for me, but I suspect it’s because someone dropped the ball. They have a finite number of days to decide. The clock ran out so they did what they must. They put an active drug addict back on the street to continue stealing and drugging.
I pull up my letter to the Parole Board which I addressed to each individual member. I wonder will any be moved by my words which now mean less than nothing, if they ever meant anything at all. I have struggled for years to move heaven and earth for my son. Neither one has ever budged one mite.
December 28, 2018
Indiana Parole Board Member
RE: Micheal B. Townsend, #921490
Madam and Sir:
The above-mentioned offender is my son. He is currently incarcerated at Wayne County on a parole violation. He has violated his parole three times. His repeated lack of compliance with parole stems from his drug use. In fact, all his life problems stem from his drug use. His drug addiction and resultant crimes have created emotional problems which have been further compounded by his repeated incarcerations. He is institutionalized, virtually unemployable; he lacks any life skills and is nearly incapable of maintaining a meaningful relationship with any other human being. He needs a tremendous amount of therapy if he is ever to be a functioning member of society. The kind of services he needs are unavailable in prison, a place not designed to be a therapeutic environment. For these reasons, another six months in prison will be a useless exercise. He will be the same person released again on parole. Society would be better served by at least an attempt to provide the therapy he needs. Otherwise, it is nearly certain that he will eventually offend the law once again in his pursuit of drugs, furthering his victimization of innocent persons and his burden on society.
Micheal has now expressed a willingness to submit to a recovery process, particularly if it keeps him from going back to prison. He refused the treatment arranged by Agent McDonald when released in October because he viewed it as an extension of his incarceration. If it must be that Micheal is sent back to prison, please consider sending him to treatment at Meridian first. If that is not possible, I would like to ask the board to consider allowing a private family arrangement for drug treatment away from Wayne county. Micheal is deeply entrenched in the drug culture in this area and a change of venue might aid in his recovery.
Please understand I am not minimizing or excusing Micheal’s crimes, behaviors or attitudes. His problems have been lifelong, intractable, and have caused me a level of anguish I can’t adequately describe. My plea for drug rehab is a last-ditch effort to help him redeem himself before his drug use causes a devastating harm to himself, or worse, someone else.
Cc: Agent McDonald