by Sharon Rondeau

(Jun. 22, 2018) — On Friday morning The Post & Email received an update from former TDOC inmate Robert Z. Whipple, III, who was released on parole last month to a halfway house after spending nearly eight years in prison on a drug charge.

Although now out on parole, Whipple’s sentence normally ends May 7, 2022.

His narrative included photos he took of his current surroundings and reads as follows.

I am working at a wood flooring plant in McMinville, Cumberland Lumber. We make wood flooring. Truthfully, the job is tough, but at least it’s a job. Pay is low, the hours are long, and it is hotter than heck, but I remind myself it’s only for 90 days. My job is to watch a machine that rough cuts lumber. I have to straighten the boards on the conveyor belt and pull out the ones where there are splits or large knots. I have a chop saw to cut out the defects, and then I can put them back on the conveyor belt. When the machine isn’t working, we have to load the belt by hand which can be tiring. Here are a couple pictures of where I’m working. At least by working I get to stay out of the house quite a bit. I work 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. but the van leaves at 4:30 because they have to pick up the third shift guys, so I am gone from 4:30 till about 3.

Omega house is actually 6 houses in a sleepy little town of 5,000. The 4 men’s houses are clustered all together about a half mile from the town square . There are classes scheduled pretty much all day everyday, and if you’re not working they expect you to go to all of them. If you don’t do what you are supposed to do they can write you a “ticket” that you have to pay. I think it’s ridiculous, since they don’t mention it in any of the rules or stuff that you sign. I haven’t received any yet so I haven’t decided if I would challenge it but I don’t think I would pay the ticket since it wasn’t in the agreement.

As for the house rules, they are mostly what you expect. When you first arrive, you can only leave the house with permission, unless you are going to work, meetings, or the office. Every time you leave the house to go anywhere you have to sign a book stating where you’ve gone and who with, and you have to sign in when you get back. The other rule is you can’t mess with the women staying at Omega house; they are 100% off limits (women’s houses are a couple blocks away). Everyone has a chore that is assigned to them that they have to do and of course everyone has to make their bed every day. You are on your own for meals, but most of us get food stamps, and the house I live in often eats as a group.

Omega house is all about the money; we have 12 people living in a 3-bedroom house! Because I work out of the county, I also pay $30 per week for transportation . So I pay the house a total of $185 per week for the privilege of living here. I really must open a halfway house—what a racket ! I was fortunate that just two days after I got here I was able to move into a two-man bedroom. I have a good mattress, real pillow, real sheets, soft comforter, and best of all darkness to sleep in!

As far as leaving the house on a pass: after two weeks you can get a four hour pass, after 30 days you can get 6 hours, and after 60 days you can get 8 hours. It keeps going up from there but I don’t want to be here long enough to find out. You have to pay $20 for each pass, they say for a drug test, but I think is just an excuse to make more money.

As for everything else, it’s all working out okay. We have an NA meeting that we go to here in town only four blocks from the house. I have already found a sponsor and we’ve met a couple times to start working steps. My PO seems cool and so far, she’s been agreeable to everything I’ve asked her for. I have to make a trip to Nashville in a couple weeks, and she approved it, which pretty much forces the halfway house to approve it also—see I still know how to work the system. I haven’t got my license back yet, because I have to appear in court and Knoxville, but I hope to get that done next month. I have already submitted the paperwork to transfer my parole out of state. I have decided to move to Baton Rouge Louisiana and live with my step-mom who assures me she can find me a paralegal job there in town.

I am embracing technology. I already have a Samsung Galaxy, a surface 3 tablet, and a Toshiba laptop! Just like I told you about I have a Bible app, but I also have apps for NA, have an ebook of the NA Step working guide, and I even have the Daily Bread app. I usually do my meditation in the van on the way to work. It may not be ideal, but since I get up at 4 a.m., I don’t want to get up any earlier than that for meditation.

Yours in Christ,

Rob Whipple

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