On Taking Care of Others . . .
"I thank God that I got out of prison in time when I did because I was able to take care of my dad and my aunt and my stepmom. I got to walk the last seven years of pop’s life. Then I walked it all the way down to the morgue wagon that took his body away. When I was in prison, that was my only concern.
June 6 of 2006 was the last day that I used dope. I owe him [Michael's father] the recovery as a promise.
I’m still on a mission. I made a promise that there was no way in hell that she [his aunt] would ever see a nursing home. As long as she can perform her functions, I’ll cook, I’ll clean. I’m not the best housekeeper, but I do what I can. I make sure that her walk down the golden path is good."
" When I took my guilty plea, I didn’t think that I was going to be doing a life sentence. The interest on these fines makes it where a person on a limited income will never be able to get out from the wreckage of the past."
Michael is a Native American disabled veteran, who lives solely on his VA pension of $1,070 per month. In addition to serving a five-year sentence for possession and delivery of methamphetamines, Michael was sentenced to $11,000 in LFOs. For the past five years, he has paid $75 per month, which the State has applied to the interest only. As of June 2016, Michael owes $17,000 in LFOs.
In MichaEl's own Words . . .
On Legal Financial Obligations . . .
"I'm below the poverty line. I don't even make the bare bones minimum for the poverty line. I get $1,050 a month and out of that I pay my court fines and restitution, insurance, rent, and all that good stuff. It leaves me about $400 a month.
I’m blessed because I have a pension that allows me to do so. And that’s big. Lord only knows if I had to live on my own, it would be almost impossible. Or bouncing from couch to couch.
If it wasn’t for the graciousness of my aunt and needing me around, I’d be probably homeless.
As soon as you get released, you’re given 24 hours to report to probation. When you get to probation, the probation officer says you’re going to have to make arrangement-go up and make arrangement for payments, and usually the court clerk will say, well, we want X amount of dollars. Because of my limited income at that time and not knowing what was going to happen from there, I got a hearing with the judge and he ordered that I only had to pay $25 a month per cause number. So that-that was a savior in itself. I go and get a money order every month with each one of those cause numbers on it and turn it in. I know the cheapest place to get money orders at fifty cents a whack,. Thank god that I can have all three cause numbers on one so it only costs me 50 cents. $75.50 every month like clockwork. At this point in time, I’ll be dead before that’s paid off.
With the fines that I have, the chance of having my records expunged or being able to hunt – here I am, I’m a veteran, I’ve never had a gun charge in my life, and I can’t even go hunting with my son. And that’s something that is a rite of passage that I always wanted to do with my son. But even if I was to pay off my fines tomorrow, I couldn’t apply for a gun permit or expunge my records for another 10 years. I’m 62 years old today.
Until I pay off $17,000 worth of LFOs and the interest, I can’t even think of applying to have my records expunged or be able to even hold a weapon. Not if I want to stay out and have my freedom."
On legal advocacy:
"I don’t see that my story is that important. But if there’s anything that I can do to make it better for anybody else coming behind me, I’ll try.
I was invited to a, we’ll call it a seminar, back in January by a group called Civil Survival. And from what I understand they were pretty well organized in Seattle, and they trying to do a lot of things that I was passionate about. Reforming legal financial obligations particularly. And also to work on trying to re-educate offenders that are coming out of prison that they can vote, they can hold certain jobs. And I was really impressed with the idea.
I sat down and we had Senator Christine Rolfes at that seminar, we had Mayor Patty Lent, and we had the newest appointed, or voted in, prosecuting attorney from Kitsap County, Tina Robinson. I was giving them a bit of my background and then I handed them a copy of my legal financial obligations. They were all amazed. I was told by Tina Robinson to get an appeal in as soon as possible to get the interest taken care of. I haven’t done so quite yet. I have a friend that’s also in Civil Survival that’s becoming an attorney who is going to help me file this appeal. It gave me some hope. Then when I find that they’re actually lobbying for things—it’s not just a bunch of talk; they’ve actually got people doing things—I wanted to get involved.
It’s not so much that any of the things that Civil Survival does is going to have a major influence in my situation, but if I could help others that are getting released to be able to have decent employment, to have a chance of no recidivism, then I’m gonna work toward it. I’m fortunate that I can pursue these things. And if I can make a difference, that’s fantastic."