Self-exploration Begins

by Mike Powers

Finally, the moment has arrived. The pinnacle of the whole experience, the purpose of my incarceration, the long-delayed day of reckoning. I have begun my sex offender treatment program. My only regret is that I wasn’t in it 16 years ago before I had an underage victim and a fat prison sentence.

When he represented me in this criminal case almost 15 years ago, Francisco required me to participate in a free-world SOTP, and even in the brief time I was in it, I gained many insights into my criminal thinking patterns. Then followed oodles and oodles of time to think and reflect, programs aimed at changing the “stikin’ thinkin’”, and even particular opportunities to participate in Christ-based sexual addiction recovery programs. But here, the game has changed.

For one thing, pretty much everyone assigned to the unit is a sex offender, so there’s no reason to hide. Just the ability to open up honestly to other offenders about the reason you are incarcerated is very therapeutic, as you can probably imagine. I believe the Biblical perspective would say, “The truth shall set you free.”

So I guess my title about self-exploration beginning is a bit of a misnomer. Believe me, brother. I’ve been self-exploring my deviant sexual thoughts for years wondering where exactly they came from and trying hard to get rid of them. And in all these programs, I’ve been able to learn a lot about that. But for all this time, while I could identify patterns, cycles, triggers, and behaviors, the one neon sign kept flashing right outside the window. “Why? Why? Why?” Why would a full-grown, church-attending, well-raised, West Texas-bred man think it was okay to groom an adolescent boy and molest him. Just writing it makes me ill! Why would I think it in any way okay to DO it?

When I was growing up, my mom, Carolyn Powers, helped organize the Rape Crisis Center of Odessa. She and her friends volunteered many hours helping the victims of rape and molestation deal with the police reports, court dates and investigative interviews that were necessary to bring perpetrators to justice. Many times, I heard one of these women say, “Rape is not a crime about sex. It’s a crime about power.” I always knew there was truth in that, and I tell you truly that, for the life of me, while I could identify a whole truckload of issues behind my own crime, I could never see the power/control aspect behind it, but I always suspected that if I finally DID, I would be on my way to genuine recovery. If you recall, the quest to answer this question was the major reason I even accepted this parole offer.

Let me ask you a question. Who would you rather release from prison: the man who won’t reoffend because he recalls the shame, humiliation, pain and jail time he brought on himself and others; or the man who recalls all this and also realizes WHY he committed the crime and has tools to stop the thinking behind the behavior? The answer is obvious. That’s why it’s important for you, and that’s why it’s been important for me. Believe me, friends, since day one of my arrest, I “learned my lesson”. You could have dropped me at any point since then into the cast of Oliver Twist, Newsies, AND the Lord of the Flies, and I would have run for my life to the nearest exit. That’s not the point. The point is that if I understand the WHY, we will all be safer.

That’s why I’m so excited about this last week. The program here has offered little that I hadn’t seen before. However, the psych-ed class that is part of the program provides a myriad of tools to explore our thinking in the commission of our sex crimes. As I was doing one of the exercises for a class assignment this week, the WHY of the power and control aspect of my crime struck into my head like a thunderclap, and the light bulb came on. I was so excited I almost skipped like a kid the way back to my cell when it was over. Have you ever had a splinter of a little piece of glass stuck in your skin, and you tried and tried, but couldn’t get at it? You know it’s there, because it hurts so, but even with a needle and tweezers, it just won’t come out. You finally hand over the tools to the “doctor” of the house, usually Mom, and in a few moments, the splinter is out. You know right away, because the pain has stopped. There’s still healing, of course, but the source is removed. If that can be done emotionally/psychologically, then that is what happened to me that day in class. It feels fantastic.

There’s something else to it, though. While I recognized the pain and hurt, I had caused others, the survivor of my crime, his family, MY family, and so many others- it was hard for me to take time and empathize with them, because I was absorbed in my own hurt. I was sorry for what I’d done to them, but in a “how does this affect me” kind of way, I think. But now that the “splinter” is out, all of my attention has been brought to bear on the pain and hurt I caused everyone else. It’s awful, and it is healing. It’s healing, because I never want to be the hurt-bearer to another one of God’s creatures, ever again. And now, I have the tools to make that possible.

Sex Offender Treatment is required for most all of the sex crimes that lead to a prison sentence. This is a wonderful thing. However, Texas needs to do two things, and they should have done it yesterday!

First, SOTP should be the first, not the last, thing that a sex offender does when he or she comes into the system, and there should be a way to periodically follow-up with the treatment during the length of the offender’s incarceration.

Second, they need to take the programs seriously- at least serious enough that teachers in the program, who are required to have a Bachelor’s degree, make more money than the correctional officers.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez