Three chairs behind a desk represent a parole hearing.
Photo by Denys Kuvaiev on Depositphotos

This article was first published by Mule Creek Post, a newspaper at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California. The article has been lightly edited to add clarity and conform with PJP style rules.

For John Butterfield in Facility D at Mule Creek State Prison, it was a joyous moment when he received confirmation of his release date after a 118-day wait — that period of limbo and deep anxiety in the parole process between being found suitable by the Board of Parole Hearings and the governor’s final approval.

After being found suitable for parole, most prisoners feel relief and joy like Butterfield. However, common to these men and women is that the euphoria fades with passing days as seeds of self-doubt sprout and negativity takes root. Many suffer from depression, anxiety, and hypersensitivity; some remain on edge and suffer through sleepless nights. 

“In waiting for word from the governor, my main concern was that my parole would become a cause célèbre due to the recall [campaign against the governor],” he said. “So I sat in limbo, purgatory if you will. My wife and family waited along with me. My 83-year-old father waited along with me. Other than that, I tried not to trip on things. I had no control over what happened.”

Coping with doubt and anxiety is critical to getting through this period. Many choose solitude. Reading, writing, exercise and meditation are also effective strategies. Others seek the support of friends and self-help groups; sharing can help to alleviate the stress. 

For Butterfield, all the work and waiting was worth it in the end. He started out with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. After years of hard work, he earned a commutation from the governor. More hard work earned him a parole grant. And, after several months of suitable limbo, he’s gone home to his wife, his family and his 83-year-old father. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Adrian Torres

Adrian Torres is the associate editor of “The Mule Creek Post,” a newspaper published out of Mule Creek State Prison in California.

Nemo Burgos

Nemo Burgos is a contributor at “The Mule Creek Post,” a newspaper published out of Mule Creek State Prison in California.