Dec. 21, 2023

Bonus Episode | Restoring the Way

Bonus Episode | Restoring the Way

Gilbert and Kelsey check in with Leo Schofield, who has spent the last 7 months at the Corrections Transition Program at Everglades Correctional Institution, where he’s been preparing for life on the outside after more than 35 years of incarceration. 

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00:00:01 Speaker 1: Hello. This is a prepaid call from an inmate at a Florida Department of Corrections institution. To accept this call, press zero to refuse this call. This call is from a correction facility and is subject to monitoring and recording. Thank you for using Global Telling. Good morning, Leo, Hey Bud, how are you good. I'm sitting here with Kelsey. Oh really, hey Kelsey. Hey Leo. It's so nice to hear your voice. It's nice to hear you too. I ask about you all the time. I know, I get the messages. I mean, I ask about you all the time too. Yeah. How are you? I'm good? How are you? Yeah? Doing really well? Hey everyone, it's been a while since our last episode. Leo has been transferred to Everglade's Correctional Institution down in Miami, where he's been preparing for parole through what's called the Corrections Transition Program or CTP for short. Currently, he's one of seventy nine men who are preparing for life on the outside after spending decades in prison. Leo has spent the past seven months attending classes and workshops on resocialization skills, job interviews, and self esteem with help from program alumni. And students at Florida International University. He's even been teaching a few classes himself. I've been keeping up with Leo through weekly phone calls and emails. I even had dinner with him over the summer. At an end of semester banquet, Leo and I sat at a long table in the CTP cafeteria with Chrissy, former Judge Scott Cupp, and Senator Jonathan Martin, along with some of the other guys in the program and their families. Leo's classes just ended for this semester. He has some free time now and we wanted him to give an update on how he's been doing. Hey, we want to ask you a couple of questions because you know, the last that the listeners had heard from you was was right after the parole hearing back in May, and uh so we just wanted to, you know, ask a few questions about what it was like when you just left Hardy and made the transition down to Everglades. Yeah, oh my god, Well for me, you know, I was I was at Haughty for so long and created a family, and of course my best friend Kevin's there, so you know that that made all the difference in the world as well, and we were there for a long time. But leaving that was really really difficult, and I had a lot of responsibilities there. I was involved in a lot of things that, you know, it was part of the functioning of that particular institution, and then coming here, I was essentially nobody and I lost those roles, and it's kind of a fish out of water. Even though I knew this was a good move. I knew it was the right move at the time for me, for my bid for home, it was still really really tough. And then I missed my friends horribly. To be honest with you, I still miss them all right now. And sometimes I get lonely form and you know, I'll tell myself maybe I can go back, and you know that there's still going back. Yeah, what was that journey? Like, Leo, Like, I'm just imagining you get on a bus and off you go. What is it like? Yeah, you know when when the bus rides to notorious so back in the eighties, and you know, I hate that I can say that, but way back in the eighties, they had these buses and they were old and they were rickety, and I mean it's essentially like a school bus would steal over the windows and stuff. It's hot, and it's it's a miserable ride. Uh, this last trip, and I hadn't been on one in you know, quite a few years, almost a decade and a half. But they've they've since then got new ones and so the new ones were much better. They were cleaner and not so dark on the inside. But you're still hanked up and it's still shackled, and you take a ride and you don't come straight from one place to another. That would make it kind of okay. When you come in here from Hardy, you're going to leave Hardy and go to Central Florida Reception Center and you'll stay there until you get on the bus that's leaving from Central Florida to come to South Florida Reception Center. And then you go through that. And every time you go through one of those places, you got to check your property in, you gotta go through the script search and all that stuff. You know, it's just part of the the journey and it's very tiring. Yeah, did you did you drive through Polk County? We did. We did have to go through Pope County that you got to go through the able to get to Orlando, and there were some places that I did recognize. The it looks so different out there. I mean, even the names of stores. There was one name of a comedian store. I don't even remember what it is now. I just I didn't even know that was a word, but apparently that's a that's the thing. And then the way people dress, you know, I'm like, you know, I know it's hot, but you know, you should try to put some clothes on, you know. But it was it was just very very strange for me. It was. And that had been the first time I've been outside of of you know, Haughty in sixteen years, and a lot had changed. Yeah, yeah, it was a lot. What is it like when you get down to a CTP. I mean, I wish you could see it. You got to understand, in prison, the doms are painted in stark colors for a reason, and they're very bland, and you know that's the way that they are everywhere here. I mean, if you can just envision it, the main color here is purple colored. The seat fear purple and yellow, really bright and vibrant. So you come in it's like, you know, it's different. You immediately know it's different. It took a little getting used to. I mean, purple is not a color I associate with prison. It is royal purple. It's very, very purple. I wish you could see it. I know I wish I could see it too. I Gilbert mentioned to me that there's a place there that maybe it's like a room where there's photos of men who have gone through the program. It's called the Learning Center. I think I told Gilbert this before, aside from the war room over at Haughty and I think it's the most profound room I've ever been in the prison. And the room is yellow and purple like the dawn. There's a lot of symbolism around. And you look around, so at the top of the wall right with the wall and ceiling meat all the way around from one one end of the room all the way around to the other on three walls. These posters that were handmade from each class. But the year of the class that exists, like I'm in twenty seven, and the CTP is as if it's for twenty seven years and I'm in the number twenty seven class. It's called Restoring Away. That's the overall name of the class of twenty seven, and there's a representation poster for each class all the way around, and when you get from like one to sixteen, all the names are in yellow and there's a one hundred percent sticker on all those posters. And what that means is that everybody in that class has pearled. And so you got to get You've got to get to like sixteen before you start seeing they're not all in yellow anymore. They're sporadic throughout. And get to my class, and there's now a couple of people from my class that have prolled recently be colored in and so that it just shows you and that, I mean, you see them one hundred percent stickers, a little ribbon on them, and you realize that everybody in that class parole. That's that's pretty amazing. And then on the back wall you have all this giant bulletin board with all these photos of of inmates that have gotten out, people that are out in the street, and the street clothes and in fact our pictures on there. Gilbert, there's a picture of us with Senator Martin that's right in the middle of the bulleting board. And then on the front wall is the most important part because on the front wall there is a giant blown up official paper. It's the form that you get from the Parole Commission that it's a termination of prole form. It's you know, it would be eight and half by eleven piece of paper, but it's blown up on poster size and underneath that is and it's called the Hall of Fame Hall of Fame. And underneath that are all these little yellow stickers with names on it of the hundred or so people that have been terminated from parole. That's the goal, you know, to finally they're not just parole now they've been terminated from parole. They're no longer on parole. They successfully made it through the program and through the parole and made it off. And that's where I want my name to be. Hey, Leo, can you talk a little bit about the program and what your days are like there at Everglades. Yeah, Well, thankfully we're in a break right now. We're in between semesters because I took thirteen classes last semester and that was an idiotic move in my books. We have to take five, yeah, because I facilitated three of them. One of them I do twice a week, So literally four classes a week I'm facilitating, plus the thirteen that I'm already doing, and I'm running the Messianic community here again as well. So I got a lot on the plate and taking them thirteen classes was a pair cycle of addiction. That was one of the mandatory classes. You know, we all need work in that area. You know, there's various types of addictions, not just drugs, and so we learn through a curriculum how to deal with certain addictions, how to overcome those, and you know, those classes extremely important. There's also parole planning, which is also mandatory every semester because we're always That was a very important class for me. The parole planning class was important, and I'm so glad I was here because there are so many things aspects of parole that I just didn't even know. I just took for granted. You parole, you go out, you obay the law, and you you live peaceably in the land you find and for the most part, that's okay. But there's a lot of responsibility that you that we have to, you know, be concerned with being out on parole that I didn't even know. One of them is I didn't realize that we don't have freedom of speech. I'm still under the conviction and so I don't have freedom of speed. You can't say just anything you want. There's a perfect example of a guy that he get out on parole. He was out, he was working in a job, and you know, there's some somebody was precious against him being in a former convict, and they went out and kept his car, and you know, that was pretty hard and he got really upset about it. I mean, you know, and in a fit of his anger, he had said, if I find out who did this, I'm going to kill you. Well guess what he got. He got violated for that, and he's been in prison over twenty years over it. You know, you can't just go out and say what you want to say human if you're angry, you've got to be careful. You got to be careful of those things. There's a lot of things that you know, I needed to learn. And Monday Night where the FIU students come in to share with us. As part of their curriculum, they have to come in on Monday nights to one of them will give a presentation on some element of you know, being out in the free world, such as maybe like the use of a cell phone. Let me think about you. Guys use a cell phone all the time. I've never ever been on a cell phone. I wouldn't even know that. I mean, it looks like a little square thing to me, and I wouldn't know how your answered. Whereas the speaker, how do you hear it? You know, none of that stuff. That's a really big deal for us in here. Some of these guys have been in longer than I have, forty fifty years and they're sixty seventy years old, and so you know, those are important elements of learning. So the classes may be great, and they are, and they teach you a lot of good information. But the FIU students come in and they show us how to live it, and they live with us in it, and they're absolutely And then on Tuesday night, you have you have one minute remaining, LEO, would it would it be possible? You said you had to wait a half hour before you call back, would you be Would you be able to do that today? Yeah? I should be able to call it eleven. Hopefully we can get another one in. Yeah. They usually call call count around eleven, twenty eleven thirty somewhere on there. Okay, okay, yeah, but we would love to talk to you if you can, if you can swing it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don't get a chance to talk to you. I elsie all the time, so I take advantage of it. Hello, this is a prepaid call from an inmate at a Florida Department of Corrections. Institutions to accept this call press zero. Hey, thanks for calling us back, Leo Gil. But well, the one thing I couldn't count for was people being on the phone when I came to get it. So we're probably going to get cut off with COUNT. Just let you know, but I want to phone Hope and I want to let you know that you know. Oh no, that's fine. We totally we totally understand. It's no problem. Yeah yeah, So here I am. We can go to they call COUNT anyway about a minute or so. Okay, well, let's okay. One of the questions I wanted to ask you is I know it Hardy. By the time you left, your claim of innocence was like very well known and accepted by a lot of people there, and I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what that's been like at CTP at Everglades. How has that been received? You know, that's an interesting question. CTP is not full of guys who are in here innocently. You know that A big factor, a big element of CPP is taking responsibility for your wronggoing and being accountable for it. That is a huge, huge thing, and rightly so so when I first got here, my very first week here, when I was going through the orientation process, the orientating inmate that was talking to me about that, he didn't know me from Adam, and you know, he was taking me through the orientation process and he you know, made a big thing about that part of it, about being accountable, about you know, being able to admit your guilt and being able to talk about it openly, especially you know, during any time your questions and things like that. They want to know you're being accountable. And like I said, that's that's the right thing. My problem was I can't be accountable for a crime I didn't commit. And so I began explaining that to you know, this individual, and he was a little bit you know, you know, that's not going to work really well, you know, And it was interesting because coming from an inmate is different, you know, I expect free world people to be a little skeptical, you know, it makes it makes kind of know better. You know, we don't we don't just say those kinds of things. And so when he was giving me a little bit of a resistance to that, it was it was it was difficult because he's wanting to get me in the place where I'm being accountable, which he's supposed to do, and I just can't do it. And so it was a struggle for me in the beginning, you know. And you know, we talked about it, and eventually senior counselor got involved in it, Cepp, and he knew me from Haughty and explained to him, you know, who I was and where I was coming from, and so it got it got a little better after that, but there was a couple of weeks in the beginning where it was a struggle. And you know, when I do get the opportunity to speak and and uh and talk as we do make presentations with each other, you know, it's a little it's a little different for me because everybody here is able to stand up and say, you know, how sorry they are, and they pray for their victims, and they you know, they say all these you know, things that show them being accountable, and you know, I'm proud of them for doing it, but I don't don't. I don't have the ability to do that. You know. Of course I pray from Michelle's family and Michelle and all that, but I can't stand up and give an account of, you know, a crime I didn't commit, and so it puts me at a different place and one that I am not always comfortable with. And I'm not saying I wish I was guilty, but you know, being in a program that is designed to bring accountability and not being guilty of the crime, it's difficult. Now. Having said that, I will say that what CTP has helped me, what my brothers have helped me with here that was different than any place else before, is that I've been able to take a really strong moral inventory of my own life and the reason why I'm here. And I'm very careful about how I word this, because I'm not guilty. Having said that, my life before this crime had taken place was pretty rocky because of my personality issues and growing up and just the attitude that I had, and that played as much a part in allowing people like on the jury to believe that I was guilty as anything else, and so I had to take out for my own actions, and that that was really hard for me. It was it because I've been on the defense for my life with this case from the very beginning, and you know, you don't get to take morel inventories while you're defending yourself against the crimean commit. And when you're doing that for so many years and you're claiming your innocence for so many years, you kind of get in this victim role. And here I was able to get outside of that for a minute and look and see my own responsibility in it. And that has allowed me really to not be so angry with Jerry Hill and people who have accused me of something that I didn't do, you know, to be able to see their perspective in it. Let me tell you something that's that's really difficult. That is extremely difficult, and it was hard for me because I don't want to be a bad person. I don't think I was a bad person. I just think I was an immature person and I didn't really have the chance to grow up and become who I would be until I got here. And so yeah, that part was har Kelsey. It was. It was really difficult and still is a little bit now, you know, seven eight months in it, and you know, these guys have known me really really well. They've they've they've gotten close to me, like they did it haughty, and you know, we've worked together and they've accepted that. You know, this guy's the real deal. He really didn't do it. And but yeah, to directly answer your question, it was difficult. It was a difficult transition, and I think I'm full circle with that now. Yeah, but hey, listen, they just called County, so well, listen, guys, thank you so much. Thanks for thanks for calling le I really appreciate and we'll talk to you soon. Bye. Thank you for using global cool. I got that off. I should left it. I think we got it the first time. Probably, Yeah, thing think