Amplified Voices

Nancy - Out of the Darkness - Episode 13

October 12, 2020 Amber & Jason - Criminal Legal Reform Advocates with Lived Experience Season 1 Episode 13
Amplified Voices
Nancy - Out of the Darkness - Episode 13
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Amplified Voices, Amber and Jason speak with Nancy - a business owner, wife, mother, student and advocate from Iowa. Nancy authentically shares how her family was affected by addiction, incarceration, special probation conditions, mandated treatment, public registration and more.

Her story particularly highlights how broad and often inflexible probation restrictions can deeply affect the lives and mental health of all members of the family. Her journey and aspirations to become a mental health treatment provider illustrate the resilience of families who have been affected by the criminal legal system.

*Trigger warning* This episode includes references to suicidal ideation. Those who have struggled with similar challenges should listen with a support person, listen in chunks or turn the podcast off if needed. 

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Nancy Miller - Amber Transcript

Intro: [00:00:00] Everyone has a voice; a story to tell. Some are marginalized and muted. 

What if there were a way to amplify those stories; to have conversations with real people in real communities; a way to help them step into the power of their lived experience. 

Welcome to Amplified Voices, a podcast, lifting the experiences of people and families impacted by the criminal legal system.

Together, we can create positive change - for everyone.

Jason: [00:00:34] Hello, and welcome to another episode of Amplified Voices. I'm your host, Jason. I'm here with my co-host Amber. 

Good morning, Amber.

Amber: [00:00:41] Good morning, Jason.

Jason: [00:00:43] And we are here today with Nancy, who is the wife of a registrant. 

She's a mother. She's a full time student studying to get a Master's of Social Work. She wants to become a treatment provider.

She is also a full time business owner, among many other things that she does. 

Good morning, Nancy.

Nancy: [00:01:03] Good morning, Jason and Amber.

Jason: [00:01:05] Thank you so much for being here. Before we really jump into the conversation, one of the first things we would like to ask you is to tell us a little bit about your life before you got involved with the criminal legal system, and then what happened and how it changed.

Nancy: [00:01:21] Alright. 

I was a stay at home mom. I just got to stay home and chase kids and go to soccer practice and all that stuff.

Jason: [00:01:28] How many kids did you have at that point?

Nancy: [00:01:30] My youngest was one and a half. And my boys, they were like eight and nine, maybe.

Jason: [00:01:36] Can we mention the state that you're from?

Nancy: [00:01:38] I am an Iowa. I grew up here. My husband grew up here. 

We had been married for 19 years and we've been together four years before that. So we've known each other for a long time. 

We've been involved in our community, involved in our church. We had a janitorial business, which we still have. And it was very successful at that time. 

He works in the evening, so we have odd hours. Little different life than most people.

Jason: [00:02:09] Here we are in Iowa. Nancy is living there. She's got a beautiful life. She's got three kids. 

So, what happens?

Nancy: [00:02:17] So, my husband and I were sitting around on a Tuesday morning, I think it was, and drinking coffee. My toddler daughters' playing around. We're just in our pajamas still. And all of a sudden we hear Boom! Boom! Boom! on our front door and our back door. 

And usually when I'm telling this story, I will pound on the table, just to illustrate how loud it was, to my audience. And everybody jumps. And that's exactly what we did, we jumped. 

My husband, went to the front door. I went to the back door. I don't even think I opened the door. All of a sudden cops start pouring in our house. I don't know how many there were. I'm guessing a dozen. 

The only face I recognized was our local chief-of-police whom I'd known for 25 years. And he looked stunned to be there too. The police just  came. They're yelling. They went to the top of the basement stairs and they said, "Is anybody down there?" And I'm like, "No, I don't think so." And they're all wearing ICE uniforms. And I'm thinking, you know, I'm sympathetic to undocumented people, but I don't have any in my house, so what are you doing here? 

And it was right after April 1st too.  We're thinking, is this a joke? This has to be a joke. Or they're at the wrong house. 

Amber: [00:03:39] Right.

Nancy: [00:03:40] They made me sit down at my kitchen table and they made my husband sit down at our dining room table around the corner. And I'm looking at the chief-of-police. I'm like, "Hey Jim, you know, what's going on?" He goes, "I don't know." He said, "I don't know."

Jason: [00:03:54] So ICE had contacted him and the chief-of-police doesn't even know why he's there.

Nancy: [00:03:59] Right. And I didn't talk to him after that because I'm thinking he's in on this whole thing. And I talked to him a year later and he said, " I was just as stunned you." And he was tearing up too. 

Jason: [00:04:11] Oh, my goodness.

Nancy: [00:04:12] They called him as a courtesy because they were coming to town. He said, that's a regular thing that they do. They said "Meet us at the gas station and follow us where we're going." He's like, "I couldn't believe we were at your house." 

Turns out that, supposedly US Marshal's do that kind of a raid. We found out later that they were all busy or something. So, they called Homeland security and that's how ICE comes in. 

They all got Kevlar on. They've all got their hands on their guns. Nobody pulled a gun. My dog was going crazy. I could  just think of stories where cops shoot dogs and I'm like, don't shoot my dog, don't shoot my dog. Let me get her in her kennel.

Amber: [00:04:55] And at this point, where are your children?

Nancy: [00:04:58] My daughter was in my arms. You know, she was one and a half, so I think she was just like, Oh, people are here. 

Amber: [00:05:05] Right.

Nancy: [00:05:07] So, yeah, they sat me at the kitchen table. Told me I couldn't leave. I said, "My neighbor girl is coming over here so I can babysit her, so her mom can go to the dentist." I said, "I need to call her and say, don't bring your kid over."

"Nope. You can't use your phone." So I'm like, great. What am I going to do?

Jason: [00:05:28] So, first you were just trying to figure out what's going on. You're thinking that it's a joke. Then you go to shock probably, right?

Nancy: [00:05:35] Yeah. I mean, I was so shook up. 

There was also a lady that came in with him with a laptop. And I still don't know what her purpose was. I'm guessing maybe she was a social worker and she was there to evaluate any kids that were in my house. 

Amber: [00:05:53] Right.

Nancy: [00:05:53] The cops went through my basement, I guess. I wasn't down there. Then they put me in my bedroom. And then they had to search my bedroom. And I'm like, "What are you looking for?" I said, "Maybe I can help you find it." And then they went into my boy's room and I said, "Well, good luck finding anything in there." 

I mean, I'm thinking this is a joke.

Amber: [00:06:14] Right. So, at this point, you're probably using that to cope. Like, what's happening here?

Nancy: [00:06:19] Oh yeah. 

So, I ended up in my daughter's bedroom, for about an hour, with one officer standing outside the door. And they did finally let me call my neighbor. And I called her and my voice is shaking. She goes, "What's going on?" I said, "I don't know. I don't know what's going on." I said, "Come look at my house. See if you can figure it out." So, I found out later that she did walk over here and ask some questions and nobody would answer. 

And they kept me in there while they talked to my husband in the dining room. And then they brought him in to my daughter's bedroom and said, "Hey, do you want to tell your wife why we're here now?"

And so, he did. He admitted to viewing, at that time we call um child pornography. Now we refer to that as child sex abuse images.

My mind was blown. I was like, "Who are you? Why would you do that?"

Amber: [00:07:23] Right.

Nancy: [00:07:24] I just had all these questions going through my head. And then they took me out and interviewed me; and asked me a bunch of questions. Asked me if I knew what child pornography was. And at that point I'd never even considered something like that. I didn't really know it existed. 

And the guy that was interviewing me was kind of condescending. Kinda treated me like I was stupid; like my husband was a real sicko. They got him to admit just some stuff that he didn't even understand what he was admitting to. Like labeling him. Like he labeled himself a pedophile, even though he didn't have the legal definition of what that was. He didn't understand that. 

He felt so much remorse and guilt and shame for what he'd been doing, and they played on that. 

Jason: [00:08:18] Yeah.

Nancy: [00:08:18] They also had threatened him that if he didn't talk, that they were going to come and take away our kids.

Amber: [00:08:26] It's my understanding that that's pretty common in these types of investigations.

Nancy: [00:08:32] I've heard that too. So, even if he'd have lawyered up, they would have tried to take our kids away.

Amber: [00:08:38] One of the things that I want to call attention to here, is that, people have this idea: "I live my life and this is something that could never happen to me and this is something that happens to other people." All of that, and: "If I was in that situation, I would have done this, this and this." Right? 

So, not having any knowledge of the system, what cops do, what your rights are really; you're so shocked when something like this happens to you that it's almost like a haze. People that say things like, "Well, I would have never pled out" or "I would have immediately demanded a lawyer" or this and that. It's not as easy as, you know, saying it out loud is.

Nancy: [00:09:23] Exactly. It is very surreal. It was like an alternate universe. I mean, we went through a process to get our children where we had to have people come into our home and examine our lives.

Jason: [00:09:37] Why are you under the microscope at this point?

Nancy: [00:09:40] They want to know if I'm complicit in this; if I knew anything about it and didn't say anything.

Amber: [00:09:47] Right.

Nancy: [00:09:48] I know there's situations where women find things on the history of the computer and then they just don't tell law enforcement, and then they become complicit in it. But I didn't know.

Jason: [00:09:58] Was he under a lot of stress with the business?

Nancy: [00:10:02] Oh, my gosh. We had been through so much. 

My dad and my sister both had cancer in 2008.

Amber: [00:10:10] Wow.

Nancy: [00:10:11] And I got the privilege to take care of my older sister, for about nine months, before she died. And during that time that she was living with us, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away before my sister did. 

Jason: [00:10:27] Uh.

Amber: [00:10:27] Oh, wow.

Nancy: [00:10:29] During that time, we were also in the adoption process and that was stressful. We were doing some fundraising for adoption and my family and my husband's family didn't think that was appropriate. And so, they turned against us during that time too. It got ugly. 

And that whole 2008 was just horrible.

Jason: [00:10:52] From his perspective: he's got a wife who is helping his sister-in-law and then father-in-law. He's got kids that he's got to pick up the Slack...

Nancy: [00:11:02] Yep.

Jason: [00:11:02] ...because the full time mom is helping with sick relatives. And he's also trying to keep his business running AND he's trying to go through this adoption process AND he has people who are turning against him, during this the whole process.

Nancy: [00:11:17] Yeah.

Jason: [00:11:17] So, it's a lot to carry. And there might be more that you haven't shared, but even that alone is a lot to carry.

Nancy: [00:11:23] Thanks for bringing that up too, because I think that is a big part of the story of how he was coping. He was using pornography to cope.

Amber: [00:11:34] So, I mean, as we're having this conversation, one of the things that we do on the podcast, is we really try to dive into what was happening at the time; the things that led up to, uh, you know, the involvement in the criminal legal system. And then, just understanding the why does not excuse the behavior. I continually try to make that clear that, as we look at these things, we're not here to condone any type of consumption of child sex abuse images. But it is important to understand how people utilize some of these things to cope, fall into it; just the "why" behind everything.

Nancy: [00:12:14] Yeah.

So, let me go back to the day that the raid is happening.

Jason: [00:12:18] Okay.

Nancy: [00:12:19] And how they interview me and then they say, "Well, okay, we're going to take your laptop and your desktop computer." And I think there was a memory card or something that they took, and that was all. That's all they found. They were going to send the computers to forensics; my business computer; all of my bookkeeping. And they were like, "Oh yeah, we'll try to hurry it up." No, they didn't. 

So, they packed all that stuff up and I left. Before they left, the investigator said, "Are you guys going to be okay? You're not going to hurt each other are you? Cause sometimes we have that." And he goes, "We're going to let the local police know to keep an eye out for you guys, just to make sure that you're not going to hurt each other."

And I remember just being resolved. And I took my husband's hand and I said, "No, because we have God." Our faith was very strong at that time. "We've got God on our side, so we're going to be okay." And I can show you the place, in my dining room, where we were standing when I said that. And I really feel like that helped.

So, they all left and we went in our bedroom. We're like, what now?" We're stunned. I'm like, "What do we do with ourselves now?"

Jason: [00:13:38] So there's no arrest. You're just kind of left completely traumatized.

Nancy: [00:13:41] Yeah, no guidance. They're just like, "Well, we'll get back to." No, here's the number to the local crisis center, nothing. 

But my husband said, "I'm so glad they came."

Jason: [00:13:54] Wow.

Nancy: [00:13:55] He said, "I've been wanting to stop doing that for a long time. And I didn't know how." said, "Every Sunday I go to church and I think I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that. Not going to look at porn anymore." And then by Sunday night, he'd be back on. He goes, "I didn't know who to ask for help." And that showed me there, that he was ready to stop. He knew the error of his ways. 

So I, I went and got the phone book and I got a beer, at noon, on a Tuesday. I said, "I'm gonna have a beer and you're going to find somebody to talk to." So he found a psychologist and he made an appointment. 

I had to talk to somebody, so I talked to a couple of friends and just tried to process the whole thing. And of course they're in shock. They don't know what to say. They've never had this happen to anybody they knew. So yeah, it was strange. 

I also called my doctor, made an appointment with her and told her what was going on. And I said, "I'm not going to be able to sleep. I need something to shut my head off at night or I'm just going to ruminate." So, she didn't give me a prescription for something that would help me calm down at night. I was on that for four years. 

Jason: [00:15:22] Were the kids traumatized?

Nancy: [00:15:24] No, because the boys were at school.

Jason: [00:15:26] Oh, Okay. That's good.

Nancy: [00:15:29] But the whole time, there was like six blacked out vehicles in our street, on a busy corner, in a small town. Cops milling around, outside. By the time I went and picked up my kids from school that afternoon - cause you know, you still gotta function - one of my friends that was working at the school had been on lunch and she'd seen all the commotion, and she pulled up next to me and she's like, "Are you okay? What happened at your house?"

 So people are already talking about it all around town. I mentioned earlier that the chief-of-police said that they called him and him to meet then at the four corners. Which, there's three gas stations in our town at the time, so everybody's up there. Everybody sees all these blacked out vehicles congregating at this gas station.

So, everybody in town is like high alert, "What's going on? What's going down?"

Jason: [00:16:21] You didn't need to have it on the local news and the newspaper to disrupt your life. Your town was small enough and everybody talks. It was a game changer.

Amber: [00:16:29] So, what happens next?

Nancy: [00:16:31] We just waited. We just sat around and waited and like a week later, two weeks later, sometime, I called the investigator and I'm like, "So what's going on? I need my computer back." And he goes, "Oh yeah, you're not going to get your computer back for months. We sent it to Omaha, to the forensics lab there. Don't count on it."

So, that was at the beginning of April. At the end of October, they came back. It was the same guy that had managed the search of our house.

Jason: [00:17:03] Same type of entrance?

Nancy: [00:17:05] Nope. It was low key. I think there were two people at the front door and two people at the back door. I let em in the back door and I'm like, "Okay, here it is. Here we go."

And my husband was still sleeping cause he works at night. So I said, "Well, do you want to wake him up or do you want me to?" And he said, "I'll go do it." And I found out later why they do that is because, people commit suicide in the meantime. 

They went and got him up and he got dressed and got around and used the bathroom, all under surveillance. They put him in cuffs in our kitchen. And again, I'm home alone with my daughter, so she got to see that. She was two by then. 

I was able to call my friends, cause I was supposed to go to Bible study that morning and I didn't go for some reason. And I think that's why is so I could be there. And I called my friends at my Bible study and I said, "I need help. I need help."

So a couple of gals from there came up to my house and it was just shocking. 

They had parked half a block down the street. I asked the cop, I was like, "Why can't you just pull in the driveway so you don't have to walk him down the street in handcuffs." And... 

Amber: [00:18:27] right.

Nancy: [00:18:28] "We can't do that." And I'm like, yeah, "It's all about the walk of shame for you Isn't it?" 

So, yeah, they took him away and told me he probably have an initial appearance with the judge. I don't know what that means. I don't know where the courtroom is. 

We had a friend who was a bail bondsman, so I called him and I'm like, "I don't know what to do." And he knew the process. I was like, "I don't even know how to get around in the big city" at that point. I'm like, "I don't know where to go." He goes, "Well, do you want me to go with you?" And I was like, "Yeees." 

So, he took me down there. We found out what time. Like, he knew where to call and stuff to find out. And then we went into the courtroom and they had put him last specifically so that the other guys didn't know what his charges were, which I thought was nice of the court to do that.

And then the judge said, "We're gonna to send you home today. You'll have to wear an ankle monitor. You'll be given a probation officer. You're going to send you home on pretrial release. You can't be around any kids. Well, you can be around your own kids." The judge said. 

Up till this time, our kids knew that something was wrong. Our boys were old enough to know that I was crying a lot. 

Amber: [00:19:49] Right.

Nancy: [00:19:49] So dad comes home and he's got this piece of machinery hooked to his ankle and we figured, well, we've got to tell him something. So, I think what we told our kids then was that dad had not followed the rules of the internet and he did something that was inappropriate. And so now he's got to go through this process. 

The next step is to come to a, an agreement. Our public defender said they had a discovery of what they found on our desktop. They found 13 illegal images buried in the cache of the computer. Some of them were duplicates and some of them hadn't even been looked at. 

And the reason that they came to our house, this is really interesting too - and they told us this the day that they came and raided our house. The thing that brought them to our house was that a year prior to the day they came to our house, someone in our home had looked at 12 images on a website that the Italian police took down. Before they dismantled that they ran it for two weeks. The Italian police ran this website for two weeks and captured all of the internet, what's it called? 

Amber: [00:21:12] IP addresses.

Nancy: [00:21:13] Yes. Thank you. Yeah, IP addresses. And then they shut down. 

So, then they've got this list of IP addresses that they wrote up files for and hunted those things down and sent those files to.

Jason: [00:21:29] Just to be clear, this was State sponsored child sexual abuse images that they left open, that someone in your house clicked on and had their IP address logged by the Italian Police, that was then shared with the U.S., and the U.S. said, "We got one." 

Nancy: [00:21:51] Yeah.

Jason: [00:21:51] Okay.

Nancy: [00:21:52] Yeah. And our public defender said that there's literally a stack of those in the federal prosecutors office and they just dole em out. 

The day they arrested my husband, they were talking about the next arrest that they were scheduled to make in the town next to us. And they were talking about the guy's name, what he did for a living, who his wife was, who his kids were, in front of my husband on the way to the courthouse.

Amber: [00:22:23] Wow. What do you even say to that?

Nancy: [00:22:27] it was so inappropriate. And the arresting officer knew the guy personally. They went to the same church. They were in the same small group. And here he is talking about, he's going to go arrest this guy next.

Amber: [00:22:42] Well, it's just one of those things that it seems like, once something like this comes up, regardless of who you were, what relationship you had with someone - all of that kind of thing - it just seems like, with this topic, all reason kind of just flies out the window. And it's difficult for people to have rational conversations about it

And so, that's why, you know, it's so wonderful that you're here today kind of sharing this story so that people can understand exactly what happens.

Jason: [00:23:12] So Nancy, your husband's in an ankle monitor. How long before he's actually found guilty or pleads guilty or what's the next?

Nancy: [00:23:20] His public defender was talking to him and said, "You know, they've got the evidence against you. If you take this to court, you're going to get found guilty. There's no way a jury can look at that evidence and not find you guilty. And they're going to vote for sentencing you the maximum they can do."

 I don't think he ever said a word.

So, my husband was charged with possession of child pornography. He wasn't charged with receipt or distribution. He only had the one charge. So, his public defender's advice to him was just to plead guilty to that. 

There was no mandatory minimum on that. So he said, "Let's just take it to the judge and see what the judge recommends your sentence to be." He said, "Most guys are getting charged with possession and receipt. And receipt has a five-year minimum." So, he said "You don't even have that charge so maybe you'll get less. In the meantime, let's work on getting some character references. Have your friends write letters. Anything you can do to show the judge who you really are."

So, I went to work advocating for him and our family. I couldn't imagine losing him for five years. I don't know how I would've managed that. So we had about 30 people write reference letters for him to the judge. And at that time, once he changed his plea to guilty, he went into custody. 

So that was about a year after the raid. And then they took him to the county jail where the feds contract with the county jail. He was in the jail for about six months.

Jason: [00:25:02] Months, okay. And that was between pleading guilty and sentencing? 

Nancy: [00:25:07] Yes.

Jason: [00:25:08] Why couldn't he stay out between pleading guilty and sentencing?

Nancy: [00:25:12] Because once he was guilty, he instantly became a danger to society.

Jason: [00:25:18] Ohhh, okay.

Nancy: [00:25:20] Yeah. That's just the way it is here in this neck of the woods. It's different everywhere, but he was just considered dangerous. 

When I got home from that court appearance and where they took my husband away. The next day I got a phone call from one of our bigger clients, which was a church and a preschool. And they said, "We need you to turn in your key." I said, "Why? I understand you don't want anything to do with my husband, but he's in jail now. You don't have to be worried about him now." And they had known what we were going through. 

During that time between his arrest and his change of plea, we had gone to talk to our Elder Board at our church, and were transparent about that.

We went to talk to most of our cleaning clients and were up upfront about what we were doing and what we were going through and what he had done. He's totally honest about stuff. He's like, "I understand if you need to let us go" or whatever, and nobody did at that time.

Jason: [00:26:26] When you're talking about commercial cleaning of a religious institution, doesn't that cleaning typically take place after people are no longer in the building. It's dark. And it's usually one person that you've hired that's in there cleaning the facility.

Nancy: [00:26:40] Yes. 

So for this one church and preschool to fire us, after he had been taken into custody, seemed extremely hypocritical to me. 

You know, the Bible says you're supposed to take care of orphans and widows. And at that point I was a widow. I didn't have him to  pick up the slack around the house. I didn't have him bringing in an income anymore. My kids didn't have their dad anymore. And here this church just kicked us to the curb. 

And I threw a big fit about it. And I knew people that went there and I tried so hard to get people to listen and not fire us over it. And they're just like, "Well, we had conversations about it through email..." that didn't include me, "and we made this decision." 

And there were people that went to that church that I knew that could have called me, but they had the guy that didn't know me, call me. I had to ask him like three times, who are you?

Jason: [00:27:39] Yeah.

Amber: [00:27:39] I think in those kinds of cases, the issue becomes public affiliation. Because obviously they knew what was going on. They saw what was coming. And it was all about, "This is a very public thing. The plea has been changed. He's been incarcerated and now we can't be publicly associated. Somebody might find out or something like that." 

That doesn't make it right. That's not a stance that is supported biblically, right?

Nancy: [00:28:11] Right.

Amber: [00:28:12] And you're exactly right. You know, when you think of the vulnerable and who's affected by this, and ways to support people when they're going through something on a path to redemption, this would have been one of the ways that they could have continued to support. So that you can make a living for yourself. 

Nancy: [00:28:29] Right.

Amber: [00:28:30] So, your husband is now incarcerated. What kind of timeframe does that look like? And how was your life affected while he was away?

Nancy: [00:28:40] He was in the county jail for like six months. And I would go over there to visit with him on the video monitor twice a week. Sometimes I took the kids. That was a culture shock for me. 

I'm so glad that I got the opportunity to do that. That sounds weird. But it really opened my eyes to a whole different life that people are living. The human side of seeing loved ones go visit their person that's in jail. 

Then they sentenced him. He was sentenced to 30 months with five years supervised release and 10 years on the registry. And in his sentencing papers, it says he's not allowed to be around any children without permission from his probation officer. He had a bunch of special conditions that didn't really matter at that time because he's going to prison. 

And in the middle of the night, they took him out of the county jail and shipped him off to the Leavenworth CCA where they do evaluations; see if he's got health conditions they need to worry about. 

We asked the judge that they would place them as close as possible. So, the closest possible federal facility is Leavenworth USP. And that's about three hours from me. Which was better than five hours cause that's the next one was, Marion. 

Amber: [00:30:07] But still not right around the corner.

Nancy: [00:30:10] The distance wasn't the problem. It was the problem of, it's a medium facility and he had low enough points, he could have gone to a camp. But at that time they were saying we don't put sex offenders at camps. So they kept him in a medium facility where there are no other sex offenders there, allegedly. 

He was in danger the whole time he was there. If you came out as you were in there for a sex offense, they would have either beat him up or killed him. Or he would have had to report and go to the hole and serve out his sentence and solitary.

So he played it under the radar and told him he was there for tax evasion and they kept asking him for his papers. And he told me the first phone call. He's like, "You gotta fake me papers." And I said, "I don't know how to fake papers."

Amber: [00:31:08] So, this is really illustrating for folks again, not a violent crime. It's all about the category. And how people are wrapped up in this negative thought about any crime labeled as a sex offense. So, even individuals who are caught up in the system who have also committed some type of crime, this is like the lowest ring, right? It's like, if you have this kind of charge, then you're at the bottom.

Nancy: [00:31:37] Yeah.

Jason: [00:31:39] Nancy, for those 17 months, he's in prison, you're terrified that something's going to happen to him. He's terrified. And you're driving a minimum of six hours, three hours each way, to go visit him on a regular basis. You're managing the business. You're raising your children. You're fending off the negative vibes that you're getting from your community members. 

Nancy: [00:32:00] Yeah, the gossip.

Jason: [00:32:02] Am I characterizing all of that correctly?

Nancy: [00:32:04] Yeah.

Jason: [00:32:05] And then if we can, let's move ahead to when he gets out. And some of the things that have happened since.

Nancy: [00:32:12] He got out in 2014. He got out and was released to a halfway house about a half an hour from us. He was once again, fitted with an ankle monitor. He could get out of there once a week and go get personal care products and get a haircut once a month. 

Then, you know, I went from spending every other weekend traveling to see him to now I'm traveling to see him two or three times a week locally.

Jason: [00:32:41] Was he able to get any type of care in terms of treatment, in terms of helping with whatever underlying condition, understanding the stress, none of that while he was in prison.

Nancy: [00:32:50] No.

Jason: [00:32:51] But he did before he was in that year before he was arrested.

Nancy: [00:32:56] He really didn't get any help because the psychologists that he went to see didn't want to address his issues, because he didn't want to get called into court. So he didn't even touch what was wrong.

Jason: [00:33:09] Amber just made a face.

Amber: [00:33:11] Sorry.

Jason: [00:33:12] That's a really horrible statement. I mean, I think we have to really emphasize the fact that there are treatment providers who are afraid because they don't want to make the case worse. Because we're such a punitive society and the treatment providers know that. And we're looking to have maximum punishment, that we're not as concerned with whether somebody gets the treatment they need to be able to heal and become a whole person.

Nancy: [00:33:39] Yeah. He might've said something like, "Yeah, come back after you're done with the legal system." We told my therapist that and she about fell off her chair and was apologizing for having that so-called professional encounter with someone. She's like, that is not what we should be doing in our profession.

Amber: [00:34:00] So, I think that goes back to  - again, with these types of issues - we should be really looking at harm reduction, and helping, and healing, and all of that kind of stuff. So even as you were talking about the Italian authorities; they were more concerned with catching people or ensnaring people then shutting down these harmful images that are out there on the internet. 

Nancy: [00:34:23] No.

Amber: [00:34:23] And so the treatment provider is like, "Okay, well, you know, once you're done with the legal system, then let's have a conversation." So that period of time that went by was harmful to him. He didn't get the help that he needed.

Nancy: [00:34:37] Once he was arrested the feds did tell him that he had to go see their sex-offender treatment provider...

Jason: [00:34:45] yep.

Nancy: [00:34:46] ...on a regular basis. And then we found out later that that was really just so that he didn't commit suicide.

Jason: [00:34:53] Did it cause any trauma though? Cause sometimes those programs actually introduce additional trauma.

Nancy: [00:34:58] Well, when we get up to the point where he gets released from the halfway house, that's when it started in with me and how it affected me, him being on probation.

Amber: [00:35:09] So, let's go there.

Nancy: [00:35:10] The whole time he's at the halfway house he's not allowed to communicate with our kids at all. 

I've been taking them to see him in prison, the whole two years or whatever. Then he's all of a sudden, not allowed to write letters, no phone calls, no, nothing.

The last time he said saw his kids, I was transporting him home and one of our friends drove our kids down so he could ride in the car with them. And that was the last time he saw them for about five months.

Amber: [00:35:40] And so, in his probation conditions, there were exceptions for biological children or not?

Nancy: [00:35:47] It had to be approved by the probation officer

Amber: [00:35:49] Okay.

Nancy: [00:35:50] And to get that, he had to be supervised at all times by an approved monitor. 

So he's in the halfway house, in the town that he's going to go to treatment, but they won't let him start treatment until he's released from the Bureau of Prisons.

Amber: [00:36:06] Right.

Nancy: [00:36:07] So, he could be getting treatment in the halfway house, but they won't allow it because money mechanisms.

Amber: [00:36:13] Right. It's all the bureaucracy of who is managing what.

Nancy: [00:36:17] Yeah. It's so frustrating.

Jason: [00:36:19] Because treatment isn't a priority. They don't care whether he stops offending or not. All they want to do is give the image that people are safer because "We're watchin em."

Nancy: [00:36:29] Yeah. Yeah. 

So, I was calling his treatment provider and his probation officer and nagging at them to hurry up and get it I'm home, cause I was about ready to lose my mind. The pressure was so intense from managing all this stuff. 

So, when he got out of the halfway house, he couldn't move back home. So, we had to find a place for him to live and a car for him to drive. I did that while he was in the halfway house. 

He had to get a job. Fortunately, we had met somebody before he went in that had been through the federal system and he helped us out with the job. So we found a friend from church that he could live with near our house.

Jason: [00:37:12] He couldn't just go back to the cleaning business and say that he's running his business?

Nancy: [00:37:16] No, they wouldn't let him come work for me again. And I'm trying to hold all that together and stuff is starting to fall apart. 

Amber: [00:37:23] Right. Right.

Nancy: [00:37:25] Most of our employees had been great, but some of them had fallen away. We were losing some jobs because things weren't getting done well. But they wouldn't let him come work for me. They wouldn't let him move home. 

He had to pass a psychosexual exam, all the analysis, go through some treatment and then take his sexual history polygraph and pass it first. Because I was so naggy about that, they did that all in five weeks. They'd never done it that fast before.

Amber: [00:37:58] I think it's important that you say that because you know, in all of our interactions with different people and knowing a lot of people that, you know, go kind of through this process, five weeks is lightening speed.

Nancy: [00:38:09] I know. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. That's what I always say. Like, Ohhh, you people have messed up my life so much. 

And so, he did get to come home like a day before his birthday. And then they also had to train me as a monitor. 

Amber: [00:38:27] Right.

Nancy: [00:38:28] Which the training was really just the counselor talking to me about grooming behaviors, what to keep my eye out for, what I can and cannot do, you know. Like I am not allowed to leave my husband alone with my kids at all. Ever. If I got up to go to the bathroom, he had to go in the other room. If I went to the grocery store and he came home before I got home and the kids are home, he has to go drive around town. 

Jason: [00:38:57] So, he's still incarcerated in his own home.

Nancy: [00:39:00] Yeah, and this is for five years. I'm now the jailer.

Amber: [00:39:04] Right.

Nancy: [00:39:05] I didn't sign up for that. There was so much tension.

Amber: [00:39:10] Just so that we can understand the whole timeframe. Between the time that they came and raided your house and the time that he came home and finished probation, how many years have transpired at this point? 

Nancy: [00:39:25] Finished probation?

Amber: [00:39:27] Yeah, roughly.

Nancy: [00:39:30] He actually applied to get off probation early and he got let off about seven months early. 

Jason: [00:39:36] Whoa.

Amber: [00:39:37] That's great.

Nancy: [00:39:38] So, that was cool. And again, that comes with a lot of assertive pressure. They don't just hand that out. I think it was almost two years ago he was released early.

Jason: [00:39:49] So, it was about seven years.

Amber: [00:39:51] Yep.

Nancy: [00:39:52] Yeah.

Jason: [00:39:53] So, now he's off probation. Now it's 2020. Comes off probation but he's still on the registry 

Nancy: [00:39:59] Right.

Jason: [00:40:00] And you've had all sorts of issues related to that as well.

Nancy: [00:40:04] Yeah.

I kind of want to go back to when he first moved home. 

Amber: [00:40:09] Okay, yeah. Absolutely.

Nancy: [00:40:11] And the pressure of having to manage our stuff and not ever let him alone with the kids. That literally was the last straw for me and I lost my mind over that. I was starting to call his probation officer swearing. Like, they meant nothing to me because I'm not on probation and I wanted them to know that. 

And they were not understanding about how hard it was to manage three children involved in three different activities and going to different schools. And there was no grace. 

I finally screwed up. I chose to leave two of my kids in the house while my husband was sleeping. And my two youngest were not ready for school and my oldest had to be at school early. And the ride I arranged for him just didn't work out.

Jason: [00:41:05] Life happened.

Nancy: [00:41:07] It was so much work to make this thing go. And it just happened and I'm like, screw it. I'm going to put the kids in one room and shut the door with the iPad. I'm just going to run him down there and run my back. I was gone for five minutes. 

And I got home. Everything's fine. I'm a nervous wreck the whole day because I've broken the rules and my kids know it. And my daughter was about four at that time. 

And that night, just out of the blue, happened to stop by, was his probation officer doing his regular check in. And I was still suffering too. And a lot of this pressure was from the PTSD, from the raid on our house. 

Amber: [00:41:50] Right.

Nancy: [00:41:51] And every time I saw somebody in blue, I was on the ceiling and it took me days to come down off of that. 

So, here I am, I had broken the rules. My husband doesn't even know. And so my daughter, the probation officers are here and they're doing their walkthrough and they're chatting with my husband, and she follows them outside. And she goes, "Mommy left us alone with daddy."

Amber: [00:42:17] Oh, no.

Nancy: [00:42:18] And she was acting weird the whole time. She was upset. This was bothering her and I didn't even know it. And my husband's like, "No, she didn't." The probation officer was like, "When did that happen?" And she has no concept of time. She couldn't figure out when it happened. It was just that morning. 

So, my husband came inside after those guys left and he goes, "So when did you leave me alone with the kids?" And I just broke down. And I broke down and I went into hysterics. I went into worst case scenarios. I'm like, "That's it. They're probably going to charge me with child neglect, child endangerment. They're probably going to take my kids away from me. They're going to make you move out of the house." I mean, I'm just like in hysterics.

And so, I got on the computer and I wrote this email to probation and treatment and I said, "This is what happened. This is what I did. It's all my fault. I'm so sorry. I just couldn't take it." And I sent it and they were like, come into the office the next day." 

We went into the office and they said, "Why do you think you're here?" And I said, "It was because I messed up." And she goes, "No, it's not because you messed up. Ge messed up." I'm like, "he was asleep."  (probation officer) "Well, he should have known. And he should've made the arrangements." She said, "Well, it sounds to me like you don't care about the safety of your children." 

And I said, nooo.

Jason: [00:43:43] Now, hang on a second. 

Your husband never had a hands on offense. 

Nancy: [00:43:48] Never.

Jason: [00:43:49] And never gave any indication of a hands-on offense. And never was charged with a hands on offense. And so, there was no reason that your husband had any higher chance of abusing your children than any other person on the planet.

Nancy: [00:44:07] Right. 

Think back to when he went to his first initial appearance and the judge said, "You can be around your own kids."

Amber: [00:44:14] Right.

Nancy: [00:44:15] He was in our house for an entire year and never had any restrictions against his own kids.

Jason: [00:44:22] But now you're a horrible mother because you had a plan that got changed and you had to take your kid to school and you put the other kids in a room where you knew they were going to be safe. And any other person makes that type of decision, every single day, they make safety decisions and they make these judgments. And they're not called to the carpet on it, but you were made to feel like you had just committed a capital offense. And you are being judged. And you are an unfit mother.

Amber: [00:44:52] I can relate to this so much in terms of trying to manage kids and activities and things like that. And it really points to that surveillance, control, and conflating of dangerousness, and broad brush - especially when it comes to probation, parole restrictions - that really have nothing to do with the offense behavior. 

We could really go on and on in terms of how this is harmful. And how it's harmful, not just to the person who is subject to them. Because it's like you're inside my head when you're saying, "Well, I wasn't on probation and I wanted them to know that." And so, the idea that your home becomes not your home. 

Nancy: [00:45:38] Yeah.  That's exactly right.

Amber: [00:45:41] And people don't realize that some of these things go on, they're like, "Oh, you know, this is over. You know, he was incarcerated. He came home. Everything's fine." And people are just kind of thinking that, you know, you've moved on from it because in the movies, that's how the criminal legal system works. You do your time. You come back. It's very glamorous. You know, you strive above it. 

That's just not how real life works.

Nancy: [00:46:06] Yeah.

Jason: [00:46:07] And the ideas is that probation isn't that bad.

Amber: [00:46:10] It's the quirky probation officer that just kind of stops by every once in a while and is like, Oh, you know, "I'm proud of you." Like, that is just not what happens. 

It really varies, probation office to probation office. It varies, officer to officer. And there are so many wonderful people who are in, what I perceive - and again, this is an opinion - as a broken system. So, you can pour all kinds of really amazing people into a system that's set up for failure and you still see a bad result. 

So again, it's not to say that all probation officers are bad. It really has to do more with the system; the broad strokes. A lot of time probation officers are trained in certain ways. The system is set up to where it's so much surveillance and control, they're like, "Well, I'm just doing my job and I'm protecting people."

Nancy: [00:47:09] Right. I'm here to protect the public; public safety measures. 

I remember screaming at the probation officer saying, "Do you understand what my husband did? Because he was in the basement. He wasn't out prowling around. He wasn't gathering up kids off the playground."

The day that we got called into the office and she said that to me about my kids being safe and I didn't care, I lost it. I lost my mind. I stood up and I said, "Give me the keys to the car, cause I'm leaving you here" to my husband. "They can deal with you. If you're such a danger, let them deal with you. I'm leaving and they can figure it out." And I went out to the car and I sat there and sobbed. And I thought, my intention was to drive away and drive into something. 

Suicidal ideation is nothing new to me. Every time I'd go see him in prison, I'd drive home thinking, you know, I could drive into that bridge and this is all be over for me. So, when I left their office, I said, "This is it. I can't take it anymore." 

And then I thought, no, I probably won't die. I'll probably just end up on life support and they'll have to take care of me. Then I thought, you know, I'm just going to sit here in this parking lot and make a huge scene. Cause I can control that. 

And So I did, I called 911. And two local cops came and one guy was really kind and understanding, and you could tell he'd been trained in trauma response. But the other guy was like, "That's really selfish of you to think that you could kill yourself."

Jason: [00:48:52] Oh, my God.

Nancy: [00:48:56] So they said, well, you know, "What do you want to do?" And I said, "I can't go home. I can not go home and parent my children under this." I was right. They were gonna to take away my monitoring privileges. So, my husband had to move out again. I said, "Take me to the hospital. Take me to the cheapest hospital because my insurance isn't gonna cover me going in. But I need some help." So, they took me to the county hospital. And I was there for five days. 

In the meantime, his treatment providers had to figure out what they were going to do because he can't go home and parent my kids either. So, they did an emergency training with some friends. And one of my friends came and spent that night at our house with my husband and kids. They had to explain to him, well, mommy is taking some time off. 

And then they sent me back. I shouldn't have gone back. I wasn't over it but I did manage to hold things together. But I was still acting recklessly. 

He had to be out of our house seven or eight months. They wouldn't let him come back home. If we wanted the kids to see him, we had to have a friend come cause I wasn't allowed to be the monitor. So, we had to depend on a bunch of our friends to figure things out. 

In that time, we were depending on our church a lot and we were still cleaning our church. And my husband was back to work for our company by then. And in that time where he was out of the house, again, they had started a preschool at our church. And the preschool teacher was uncomfortable having my husband clean the church. So, she finagled a way around the leadership of the church to blackmail us into him not being allowed to clean the church. This caused a huge rift between a lot of people at our church. 

I actually met with her with my husband's treatment provider. She came to our town and met with this preschool teacher and we went over: Why are you so afraid? What are you afraid that this person's going to do? 

So, my husband's treatment provider ended up being a really strong advocate for my husband. She came out and met with our church leadership later that year. I got to see her advocate. She came out and talked to our soccer club cause somebody had complained about my husband going to our kids' soccer games. And she came out and did education for them. She would call me in because I had studied and I knew all this stuff.

So, the day after she met with our church leadership, she called us into the office and she's like, "I hope I'm not overstepping, but I really think Nancy, you should go to college and get your degree, so that you can be a treatment provider and advocate for people on the registry."

Jason: [00:51:48] You know, you talked about your mental state and what the process did to you. And I just have to say, we feel for you. And so thankful that you were able to get help and that you're here. And that it's incredible what you've been through and you've survived.

Amber: [00:52:06] You sharing this story is really important. Again, when we talk about this idea of protecting children and harm reduction. What kind of harm has been done to the children, the families, in this process of protecting them from this imagined threat. 

That's one of the things that I really would like people listening to this podcast to really think about and understand. Because it's like somebody having a splinter in their hand and performing this ridiculous surgery on them that then incapacitates them and their entire family.

Nancy: [00:52:49] You're absolutely right. Cause I, I was not a good mother. My sons are now teenagers and it's starting to show.

Amber: [00:52:58] I'm sorry. I just have to say, I can't let you say that. I'm sorry. I can not let you say that you were not a good mother. You were a person who was having a natural response to this type of trauma; this type of oppression. And you were a good mother because you said I need help. That's what you said. 

So, I can't let you say that.

Nancy: [00:53:23] Thank you.

I, I guess what I do tell my kids when things come up, "I am not the kind of mother I always wanted to be because of all this angst and trauma that we've been through as a family. I'm not the same kind of person that I could have been. If all this hadn't happened."

Jason: [00:53:42] Nancy, you have done a phenomenal job of giving real concrete examples of how the criminal legal system has touched your family and what it's like when you have outside influences managing your home and your life. And telling you what you can and can't do, and having that type of surveillance. And how it affected you and your mental, and how that's affected your kids.

Before we close out. You know, you talked about going back to school. I know there's a lot of stuff you could talk about in terms of collateral consequences that are still going on today.

Nancy: [00:54:16] Yes.

Jason: [00:54:16] But is there anything in particular that you want to make sure you cover? Let's do that really quickly. And if there's a whole lot more to your story, we can have you back for another episode.

Nancy: [00:54:26] Yeah. There's a whole lot more that we could talk about.

But just some ironic things; a couple of ironic things is that: I now volunteer at the jail where my husband spent six months of his life. I now can go in there and be in that environment and serve the population that's there. I teach them a writing class.

I'm now into my master's program in college. Somebody in Texas that I met at the ATSA conference, he wants to interview me as somebody who's done post-traumatic growth. Because I have grown so much in this whole experience. I'm taking a class this semester that's taught by our state's director of the Department of Corrections. And I'm going to be meeting with her and telling her my story. 

So, the whole thing is tragic, but it's also, we've been able to find the brighter side of things. I always say my life is rich even though I'm pretty financially insecure. But my life is so rich and the people I've gotten to meet. You guys. I never would have met you guys. 

Amber: [00:55:37] Right.

Nancy: [00:55:38] So, anybody listening that'a in the middle of it, hang in there. Watch for opportunities to grow. Watch for the people that will listen and want to help.

Amber: [00:55:50] Nancy. I do want to say that the idea that you're kind of, I don't want to say on the other side of it, because you're never really on the other side of it. But in terms of coming out of the deepest portions of despair, if you will, because there is kind of a journey that happens while you're going through types of things. And able to understand the systems, and go into the jail, and work with people, and learn about this on your way to becoming a treatment provider, when you realize that that treatment provider became an advocate for your husband. And in some ways that was kind of a lifeline for you guys. And wanting to be that is such an inspiration to so many.

And I personally know how many people that you touch because of some of the groups that we're involved in. And it's just really amazing that you can go from a point of such despair to a point of such hope and helping. 

Nancy: [00:56:51] Yeah.

Amber: [00:56:52] So, I would like to thank you for everything that you're doing. And I know that I'm not alone in the people that you have affected.

Nancy: [00:57:03] Thank you. There are people that have affected me equally. So, it's humbling.

Amber: [00:57:10] Is there somewhere that people could reach out to you?

Nancy: [00:57:16] I am on Facebook. That's mostly where I spend my time. So, if you want, Amber, to connect anybody with me through Facebook, that'd be great. 

Amber: [00:57:26] Okay.

Nancy: [00:57:26] I do moderate a support group on Facebook, if anybody's needing support.

Jason: [00:57:33] Thank you for being a guest today. Thank you for sharing your story.

Nancy: [00:57:37] Yeah, thanks for having me. And I'd be happy to come back again.

Jason: [00:57:42] All right. Until next time, Amber.

Amber: [00:57:44] I'll see you next time.

Outro: [00:57:57] You've been listening to Amplified Voices; a podcast, lifting the experiences of people and families impacted by the criminal legal system.

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