I come into the office full of good intentions. After all, there is always so much work to do. Today, I planned on writing some motions to modify conditions of release (clients want to attend social functions with family members and since they are on house arrest, they have to ask the judge for permission.) It’s not hard work but it is tedious. Then there are motions to put things off or to get things in or to do things that honestly I’d rather just not do but they must be done. There is discovery to go through and videos to watch of my clients doing things they should not be doing on video and I intend it. I do. I mean to do it all and be incredibly efficient with it all. Answer my calls, return the emails. Get. It. Done.

And then I end up leafing through old calendars and address books wondering how I will find the girl who was such a good friend of mine when I was 19 and really, who the hell is this Allison I keep mentioning? (I really have no idea.)

In between I file things in ECF and I listen to a few voice messages (mostly collect calls from the jail that are then forwarded to my cell. Yes, I take calls from clients on my cell. They text me too.)

And I have been doing a lot of unearthing, uncovering, rediscovering the how and why of ending up here in this little office with orange walls.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

We do these pre-plea investigations. Basically probation wanders down our client’s memory lane of arrests and convictions and writes them all up for us so we can tell them how screwed they are if they are convicted after a plea or trial. I used to just ask the clients about their criminal history, but it seems that once they are at the feds there are so many arrests they simply cannot remember them all. And frequently, when they are given a written copy of their foibles, they still don’t remember. But it is there in black and white and it is what we have and we have to face it, deal with it, figure out how to make it work to our advantage (that, my friends is not a task for the timid.) Maybe – maybe If my clients could take the time to sit down with old calendars and diaries and emails and look back and say “look, I really didn’t do so well here” then maybe they wouldn’t end up standing next to me in courtroom 4B on Cherrywood Lane. Maybe they’d have a felony conviction and never be able to own a gun but would be able to sleep in their own beds for the next two decades.

Every one of us needs a pre-plea investigation before we commit our next crime. Once it’s done, it’s just too late.

I used to think it was a good thing to not be able to understand why my clients did the things they did because it was the thing that separated me from them and made me sure I would never commit such atrocities (or sell drugs.) If I didn’t ‘get it’ then I wouldn’t do it, right?

But now I get it. I get the anger and rage and frustration and desperation. I get the need for more and better and higher and this is just not enough. The there has to be an easier, faster, better, way and I will not get caught no one will find out how will they ever know. I don’t know what it is that allowed me to come here and sit in this office of the orange walls and not in a cell with an orange jumpsuit. I think I had a better sense of fear of being too risk averse to take those kinds of chances with things. But that isn’t not getting it. that isn’t not understanding. It is actually being able to fully grasp and comprehend and making a choice to not do it because I am afraid I cannot handle the consequences. And, I have just been lucky so far.

—–

I have twin boys named Yonas and Yacob (Jonas and Jacob) They were born in 2007. In 2000 I wrote a short story about a woman who gave birth to twin boys named Jordan and Jacob. I found the story today, I haven’t seen it since I finished the journal I wrote it in. It freaked me right the fuck out. In the story, the woman, Willow (name inspired by the Robert Frost poem, ‘Maple’) doesn’t dress the boys alike for fear they will not have individual identities. She loves these boys more than she loves anyone or anything. She is a criminal defense lawyer with twin boys.

Apparently I could see my own future.

I can see my clients’ futures too, but they don’t believe me when I tell them what will happen and what is coming. I know that there is a sense of ‘this can’t really be happening to me’ when they hear how it will be, how the next years of their life will unfold. I try to keep them strong and tell them to hold on. To the young ones I say “when you get out you will be younger than me” as if this is a sense of hope. I want to ask them why they didn’t know fear or understand this is where this would lead them. Why they couldn’t just take the path that I did.

After all, now that I get it I am just like them, right?