The story is very real. This is my husband. I promise, I wish it was a made up story.

I am so sorry, Mrs. Wallace.

Despite all the pretty words being spent on criminal justice reform, some things simply will not be appreciated by those who have not been the subject of its heavy hand — probably most of all, people do not appreciate just how arbitrary the system is. They don’t understand because they don’t wish to understand; I tell them, “If you have ever lost control of yourself in an angry moment — even for a second — the difference between you and a murderer is luck, nothing more. If you’ve ever gotten behind the wheel when you weren’t quite up to it, well, you’re no better than that guy on the news last night who dozed off and killed an entire family on the highway.

Surprisingly enough, nobody wants to hear that. But even though it’s all arbitrary, what an awful additional pain to know he’s innocent. That’s really hard. I know he’d have gone over and over in it in his head… it makes you wonder why’d I bother? Why bother going straight, being Good and sitting up tall in class and parting your hair neatly for teacher, if you’re just going to be considered permanently Bad and punished no matter what you do?

My prayers are with Michael, and with you too.

Because that’s the other sentence, isn’t it? The hidden sentence. He’s an inmate, so you’re an outmate. Prison punishes by depriving the inmate of the world; but to you, his wife with two small children, no doubt deeply in love, I know you lost your world too. And no doubt it’s hard for you to say that, because “I’m not the one behind bars, I shouldn’t complain…” but you lost your world too, and the courts don’t even acknowledge that, do they? If someone is killed, they go on and on about how the offender has torn apart a family, etc… but the falseness of their sorrow is made terribly clear by the way that they don’t even notice the fact that they’ll tear apart half a dozen families in an afternoon.

But then, you’re refusing to let your family be torn apart, and that’s where I just don’t understand anymore how you can be so strong. My friend Christian did ten years; his wife was pregnant with their first child. He kissed her goodbye and told her not to wait, because he thought that was better for the baby, and better for her, and better for him. But when he was released, last year, what was hard for Christian was his son. His ex was absolutely willing to grant shared custody, and he accepted; but the hard thing was that his son called another man Dad, and had done so all his life. Christian’s a good-hearted man, as the name implies; but though he doesn’t let it make him angry, it hurts him. I asked him whether he made the right decision; he said, “in most cases, you know, couples don’t last, so I made the right decision. Better clean than messy and drawn out. But, you know, I think, ‘What if…’”

What if, indeed. I don’t think anyone can be expected to do as you’ve done, but nevertheless, your strength is inspiring.

I’ve had a look on the 2014 Clemency Project website and can’t see any means by which third parties can have an effect on the process. But, you know, you guys have 1000 people who’ve liked that original article who’d be likely willing to sign a petition or something like that. is useful for lots of things if you don’t have something already set up, and even if there’s no official way that something like that can have an effect, it can’t hurt… and governments care about publicity. Whatever you decide on, please let everyone know; I’m sure that we all hope to see Michael come home to you and the children.

Better Luck, Mrs. Wallace. To your whole family.

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