All Things Crime Blog has been posting excerpts from Nicholas Frank’s book, Destructive Justice, in which he tells the story of how his 17-year-old son, Nathan, received several life sentences for an armed robbery in which no one was injured. Now, we here at ATCB have been asked to post articles by Nathan himself (whose real name is Tyler). It turns out that there’s more than one good writer in the family.

by Tyler — May 11, 2014 (Sunday)

Who would think that a brown paper bag and a cinderblock wall could come to symbolize so much?

For me, they have.

Periodically, I see men leaning against or standing in front of this one particular block wall on the yard. They seem to obtain a restless aura of anxiety. With pent-up energy, they pace back and forth, hardly able to stand still, displaying ill-concealed nervousness.

outOthers pass them by, and a hushed whisper rides the wind to my ears. “He’s about to Parole.” The very word alone makes my heart race and fingertips tingle.


I look to see if I recognize any of the individuals there. Often I do. A multitude of thoughts and feelings fluctuate within my mind. They vary from “good luck” to “what a waste.”

Although my opinion shifts, the impact that seeing them has on me remains the same. No matter who it is, whether deserving or not, when I see a man with his meager amount of worldly possessions enclosed within a brown paper bag, standing in front of that “ever present” cinderblock wall, I am overwhelmed with sadness and envy.

What that guy will experience is a thing of mystery. Even so, I try to envision what his process will be like.

out2What will he hear, see, feel? Is a loving family waiting for him with their own anticipatory thoughts? Will he cry, laugh or quietly contemplate his surroundings. Will he find freedom palpable, a thing to be touched and felt?


It is a thought that is always on my mind. Will I ever be free again? Will I ever feel what the brown bag and the block wall represent? How lucky that man is to be given something so priceless. To start again with life.

Freedom means so much more than the release from prison. It is more than out5severing oneself from the vision of endless razor-wire and the willed deafness that is required to block out the constant cacophony of heavy metal keys. It is the aroma of wildflowers on a summer breeze and it is the warmth of a bar of sunlight as it breaks through the clouds bringing relief after a sudden downpour while on an Autumn hike. It is the wind rifling through my hair as I roll down an automobile window. It is the feeling of burying my toes in the cool sand of a beach as I listen to the music of waves crashing against the shore.

How I crave freedom to be with those I love. To attend holidays and the coming together of family and warmth. To be a best man at my brother’s wedding, and exercise the joys of freedom by giving a speech on how the amount of pride, love and gratitude I feel for him is un-weighable.

out4Yes. Freedom means so much more and to Parole is to be free.

Parole also has the flavor of redemption, the taste of amends; that the stupidly poor choices I have made will not be the final sentence of the last chapter.

One day I hope to feel these things, to not only say how sorry I am for the mistakes I have made, but to prove this to be true. I hope to finish the rites of passage into manhood with my father. To inspire pride within my family’s eyes for the hard work along the long road of my redemption. This brings me comfort.

And one day, I hope to be that man with his small paper bag standing in front of that cinderblock wall.


5 Responses to “Behind and Beyond the Wall”: The Gift of Freedom

  1. liselasalle says:

    Great story! Touching but real and cutting. How I wish for Nathan to get out of this pit to breathe some fresh air and reconnect with his real values and family.

    His sentence was ridiculously unjustified.

  2. Nicholas Frank says:

    Thanks liselasalle. I hope more folks who read Tyler’s story and writing will be as empathetic as you. The fact is there are so many young people in prison (and some not young anymore) who were put there when they were adolescents. And it is still going on today. Somehow, when it comes to punishing young people for their offenses, our system (and therefore our society) forgets the collective knowledge of centuries about the fundamental differences between kids and adults. There is a stuttering movement in the other direction, however. Hopefully, with the support of people like you and me, we can gain enough momentum to turn things to a rehabilitative, redemptive course. Thank you.
    Nick Frank

  3. […] “Behind and Beyond the Wall”: The Gift of Freedom […]

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