Note: This transcript is a radio script, which means it includes production notations and occasional syntactical errors and quirks of writing for audio storytelling.
Episode 3: Losing Josh
The last time I saw Josh was at the hospital. I was surprised and confused by the way the day had played out. I was nervous for his health and safety after his seizures. And...I had forgotten to figure out how to reach him.
EMILY: I just, I’m worried about this guy. I don’t know.
EMILY: I don’t even know how I’m going to follow up with Josh. Like I didn’t even… he doesn’t even have a phone number.
See - I used to be able to call the prison to get ahold of Josh. Now he’s out -- and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have a phone.
There is one person I hope will be able to help me find Josh -- someone whose actual job it is to keep track of him.
MORGENOUS: [00:01:33]...My name is Greg Morgenous and I'm a probation parole officer for the State of New Hampshire and Josh is one of my parole subjects.
EMILY: Out of how many?
MORGENOUS: Right now I have about a hundred and forty people.
By the way, that number is a little high for Greg. He usually supervises about 110 people at a time - which, if you couldn’t guess, is a lot.
And, maybe because he sees so many parolees, I’m struck when Greg says he had the same first impression of Josh that I did: that this guy seemed genuinely determined to do better.
MORGENOUS: When I first met him I’m thinking he’s gonna do alright. He’ll stay out outta trouble. But he really struggled that first week.
The day I left Josh at the hospital, he went straight to a county-run dormitory - sort of like a government-subsidized group home for former inmates.
Josh needed a place to live...but
MORGENOUS: [00:02:37] /// But was kicked out for some behavioral issues, I think maybe the second night he was there.
I was stunned. Just two days out of prison...Josh got kicked out of his transitional housing. It was not a good sign for whatever lay ahead for Josh on the outside.
I wanted to know more about the “behavioral issues” Greg said led to Josh’s eviction. But he was cagey.
EMILY: [00:32:28]/// Like, can you put it into a category like violated parole condition?
MORGENOUS: Violated a parole condition. Substance related.
EMILY: Substance related. Wow. ///
MORGENOUS: [00:32:13] So right off the bat, I'm like, wow, this guy...he hasn't made any changes. You know it was in 48 hours of getting out. So it was a surprise to me.
I can only imagine it was a surprise to Josh too. On his first day of freedom, he’s rushed to the hospital because of seizures. Two days later, he’s homeless.
From New Hampshire Public Radio, this is Supervision. A podcast about a life on parole. I’m Emily Corwin. This is Episode 3: Losing Josh.
I’m almost certain the substance that got Josh Lavenets kicked out is alcohol. Back in prison, Josh told me he really wanted to avoid alcohol. When he gets depressed, he drinks too much, and he gets in trouble. Josh was depressed and drinking when he lost his driver’s license. And, when he assaulted his wife and stepson.
Josh could have stayed at that county-run dormitory rent free for a whole month. It would have given him a roof over his head, two meals a day, transportation to job interviews -- and medical appointments. When Josh was kicked out he lost all that support.
Now, if he wants to rent an apartment, he’ll need a deposit -- money he doesn’t have. Plus, he’ll probably have to check off “convicted felon” on the application.
But this revelation about Josh drinking -- it’s shocking to me for another reason: drinking is a violation of his parole. It means Josh has already done something that could send him back to prison.
MORGENOUS: Most of his crimes are domestic-violence related. Lot of misdemeanors.
It’s a parole officer’s job to decide what happens next. Sitting in his office, Morgenous pulls out a folder and rifles through papers documenting Josh’s crimes.
MORGENOUS: So yeah you look at his record and you see criminal mischief and criminal mischief and simple assaults and obstructing the report of a crime and simple assault. It’s all domestic-violence related.
Parole officers like Morgenous have a ton of discretion when it comes to how they handle violations. They can initiate new felony charges in the courts, suggest a set back of thirty or ninety days in prison -- or they can just make a note and basically let it go.
MORGENOUS: [00:09:37] It's hard because we have a dual role. We are here to enforce the conditions of the court, the parole board. But we're also here to assist and help someone along. So it's it's a fine line to be able to do that.
The job of a parole officer like Greg Morgenous exists somewhere on a spectrum between law enforcement and social work. When someone messes up, do you lock them up, or do you give them more support? It can be pretty arbitrary. It can come down to the parole officer’s personality - his mood. Or the identity of the parolee.
There’s research that shows black people on parole are far more likely to end up back in prison than white people. (Josh is white.)
Morgenous says, eighteen years ago, when he started doing this work, he sent a lot more guys back to prison. Now, he uses his discretion differently. He says what changed for him was becoming a dad.
MORGENOUS: Going into the field especially and seeing kids in horrible situations - it really kinda got to me. /// And over time I’ve had /// grandparents and parents and the kids… I’ve had three generations of people on supervision. /// And you know I've had kids in here where they color and give them lollipops. And it’s a day out to the probation officer instead of you know going to the dentist or the doctor. So it's it's normal for them. And you know when they're 18 and 25 they’re -- it’s going to be normal for them at that age and for their kids to be here. So /// it's a general generational thing and it's it's hard to watch that with really no ability to break that cycle.
Parole officer assignments are luck of the draw. And Josh may have hit the jackpot with this one. After getting drunk on his second day out, Morgenous could have sent Josh straight back to prison. But… he didn’t. He gave Josh another chance.
SO - I lost Josh. I can’t find him. It’s been seven days since I last saw him at the hospital. I call the only person I can think of. Kris.
[phone ringing] ...
EMILY: Hey Kris. This is Emily, the reporter with New Hampshire Public Radio.
EMILY: Hey...um...so I’ve been trying to find Josh. Do you have any advice for me for how to get in touch with him?
KRIS: Best to text message him and what I’ll do is…
Josh it turns out -- has a phone.
EMILY: Hey Josh this is Emily the reporter with NHPR. Ha! I’ve been trying to find you...
Josh tells me a friend offered him a room in her apartment in Rochester, New Hampshire, Josh’s hometown. He doesn’t mention getting kicked out of transitional housing.
But he does agree to meet up at 9am the next morning -- at a Dunkin Donuts near his friend’s place.
EMILY: Hmmmm...how about this little stone bench?
We stroll through Rochester Commons and find a bench near a playground. Josh tells me he used to bring his son here to play.
EMILY: To the playground?
LAVENETS: Oh yeah.
This isn’t the step-son he was convicted of assaulting, but a biological son, who’s being raised by his mother in a city an hour away. Josh hasn’t seen the kid -- who’s 16 now -- since he went to prison two years ago. But...they’ve been video chatting since Josh got out, catching up.
LAVENETS: This program he’s been doing /// they do hikes, and he told me he did a couple of the presidentials.
LAVENETS: That’s what I said. I said, “Your dad hasn’t even done those yet.”
EMILY: Pretty proud?
LAVENETS: Yes. ///
LAVENETS: Technology’s great, you know. You can have a face-to-face conversation with him on the phone, it’s pretty neat.
Josh is tickled by technology. Every few minutes, he pulls his phone out to check for new messages.
EMILY: Who you texting with?
That’s Fathead. A friend. Josh has known Fathead since middle school.
LAVENETS: “It's been good, a lot has happened, you should stop by…”
For the last two years, Josh has had no connection with the people he cares about most. No email, no visits, hardly a letter. And now, all of a sudden everyone is at his fingertips. It’s hard to keep Josh’s attention when all his friends are texting at once.
LAVENTES: Doobydoobydoo. Kris just tagged me in a post.
LAVENTES: Aw, he wants to do Middle Carter, shit. And Carter Dome. Aw shit.
Kris wants to hike a mountain with Josh - but it’s under a few feet of snow, and Josh doesn’t have any boots right now. He texts something back.
Another reason Josh has his phone out is -- he’s waiting for the neurologist to call him today. No calls yet.
LAVENETS: Yeah /// since um /// that seizure /// I been wicked mush-brain. Like, mushy brain. /// I’ve noticed that I’ve been forgetting a lot of things. [EMILY: Really?] Yep.
Still, Josh doesn’t seem too stuck on the seizure thing. I mean -- there’s a lot of things he’s happy about.
LAVENETS: I love laundry. I love shopping, I love cooking I love doing all the things. The little chores of everyday life. [EMILY: Really?] I really appreciate it.
It’s these little details that remind me how different Josh’s life was, on the inside. It’s like...getting kicked out of a group home pales in comparison to... laundry...and fresh produce.
LAVENETS: Fruits. I love eating fruit. All of it. And in prison they don’t serve you fruit. They’re so afraid of you making alcohol that they will “malnuturish” you. ///
EMILY: Wow, so how do you get fruit now?
LAVENETS: The grocery store which is wonderful. ///
EMILY: Have you gotten your check from the prison by the way?
LAVENETS: Hmm. NOOOOO.
This check from the prison is something Josh has talked a lot about with me. He was supposed to get out with $100 in his pocket - money he earned working in the prison. But instead of handing him the money when he left, they said they’d have to send it to him in the mail.
LAVENETS: I called them yesterday, matter of fact. /// And they said, “Well, you gotta call Concord.” /// Concord told me Berlin hasn’t sent it yet. /// They're as useless on the outside as they are on the inside.
Without the check, Josh is completely broke.
LAVENETS: I hate not being able to pitch in. Like, freeloading. I’ve never been like that. ///
EMILY: And right now who do you feel like you’re freeloading from?
/// [STEPS UP] ///
Today, Josh has $14 dollars in his pocket thanks to his mom. With it -- he needs to buy a new wardrobe. Trisha Angel, the friend he’s crashing with, is gonna drive us to Goodwill. So - we leave the park and walk back to Josh’s new apartment -- Trish’s place.
TRISHA: How are you?
LAVENETS: Trisha, This is Emily
BOTH: Nice to meet you
TRISHA: Sure come on in.
EMILY: Great, thanks
Josh hadn’t mentioned Trish before today. But when I meet her, they seem tight.
EMILY: [:45] So you guys went all through elementary school?
TRISHA: Middle School. Middle school. /// Grab the pictures you gotta show her. It’s kinda funny. We were actually pretty inseparable for a long time.
EMILY: This is YOU Josh?
EMILY: Black hair?
TRISHA: His hair is really, it used to be really dark. And it gets curly, it gets really curly actually.
Trish cleans houses and works for a temp agency. She has three kids - two live with their dad, the oldest is in high school and lives with her and now, I guess, with Josh.
The apartment is tidy. I can see all of Josh’s things have been neatly placed on the couch -- his sweatshorts from the prison, and a plastic bag with dirty underwear and socks. I get why he’s so keen to buy more clothes.
TRISHA: Josh, can you move that for her? Or unless you want her to sit up front.
EMILY: No, no. I’ll sit in the back.
TRISHA: You’re gonna replace it anyways...
We pile in the car, and Trish drives us to Goodwill.
TRISHA: I’ve not been in this one so...
[Door swinging, music starts]
EMILY: Whatcha lookin for?
LAVENETS: Large to extra large. I don’t like tight. I don’t like tight clothes. /// Anything besides having nothing.
Josh only has the $14 from his mom. Even at Goodwill that’s not gonna go very far
LAVENETS: I don’t know what green tag means, I know this is $3 dollars, I don’t know if this either five dollars or up, and six dollars and up.
It’s hard to figure out the prices here and Josh is starting to look anxious.......when...he gets totally engrossed in something else, on his phone.
LAVENETS: Come on. No! Why!? EMILY: Who are you texting?
LAVENETS: Uhh my ex.
This isn’t just an ex. This is THE ex. The one Josh was charged with strangling, the one he was convicted of assaulting... assaulting her son, locking her in a bedroom... the one who divorced him while he was doing time. Josh’s clothes, his hiking boots...his kayak are in her garage.
LAVENETS: I’m just trying to get my stuff back. Umm. /// She’s uh, startin the whole, “I’ve always loved you” [EMILY: Really?] I’m all set. [EMILY: She’s...she’s…] Yeah. She’s starting to talk mushy, and I’m just not down with that. [EMILY: Wow.]
Josh lost his job, went to prison.. And is here at Goodwill buying clothes with fourteen borrowed dollars... because of crimes Josh committed against her.
EMILY: Any temptation?
LAVENETS: No. I have no desires. /// No. I want my life back. I was unhappy when I was with her. /// 32’s that’s it. Can’t go any smaller. These pants, they all look dirty!
Josh takes his tee shirt, shorts and pants to the checkout line.
LAVENETS: Question. Green? That means three dollars? [CASHIER: Nope.] Five dollars? And six dollars?
Josh is worried his $14 won’t be enough. But it is. He spends it all.
CASHIER: It comes to $14 did you want to round that up to $15 for our veterans today?
LAVENETS: That’s all I got is 15.
CASHIER: And your receipt have a great day.
LAVENETS: You too. Hmmm, hmmm, hmm, hmmmm. There.
When we get outside, Josh seems relieved. Lighter.
But by the time we get to the car, he’s fretting...again...about the $100 the prison still owes him.
LAVENETS: I wanted Chinese food, but cuz I didn’t get my check, they didn’t send me my check. ///
LAVENETS: I was gonna take my mom out. Can’t do that. ///
EMILY: Have you gone out for any meals?
LAVENETS: No. Haven’t had money, you know.
TRISHA: I think one of the funniest things was I cooked like a ham, and he’s like, “This is my first home cooked meal in like forever.” So I did a ham…
Trish seems intent on giving Josh a good homecoming. The more time I watch them together in the car, the more I see how much they love each other. Whether like brother and sister or something else, it’s hard to tell.
TRISHA: And like our music choice, completely different I hate his music, it’s absolutely the worst.
LAVENETS: What do you mean?
TRISHA: And like, his music, he hates my music. It’s a constant, forever, like since day one, been an issue with our music.
They say they’ve dated off-and-on. And yet, like Josh’s mom, his siblings, Kris and everyone else... Trish didn’t visit Josh in the two years he spent in prison. I ask her why not.
TRISHA: Berlin is really far. I absolutely would have gone up more, had I thought that like...it’s just so far, it’s like two hours away.
Trish says her car had some issues. Also, her ex didn’t like Josh, disapproved of her going to visit him. Trish says her car had some issues.
Also, her ex didn’t like Josh, disapproved of her going to visit him. Josh doesn’t say anything.
TRISHA: One of the things was you can’t wear tanktops. So like I layer tank tops….FADE DOWN
When we get back to their apartment, Josh makes himself a peanut butter sandwich. It’s time for me to go.
LAVENETS: Didn’t even dawn upon me you didn’t even have my number. /// I don’t even think my parole officer has my number yet...
We agree to be in touch by phone. I tell Josh I want to know what’s coming up in his life so that I can be there to record: job prospects, doctor’s appointments, whatever.
EMILY: Anything else on the horizon I should know about?
LAVENETS: No. No
EMILY: Alright. So do you mind if I...I think I might just sort of get in the habit of checking in regularly...
I’m certain I’ll see him soon.
What I don’t know in this moment in the hallway...is that I won’t see Josh soon. I’ll text him, and he’ll write back things like, “I’m working all the time.” He’ll make excuses about why he can’t meet up. Communication will get...sketchy.
What I wish I knew, standing there with Josh Lavenets, is that I will never see him again. And looking back, if I had known this was going to be goodbye, I would have said something else. Maybe thank you. Or at least good luck.
LAVENETS: Do you know how to get back? Do you want me to walk you back? Cuz you can see Dunkin Donuts right there.
EMILY: I’ll be fine, yeah. I see it. Cool, alright.
If you’d like to listen to the final episode of Supervision, it’s available in your feed right now.
Supervision was produced and reported by me, Emily Corwin.
Jack Rodolico is Senior Producer.
Editing by Dan Barrick, Cori Princell, and Maureen McMurray.
Sound mixing by Nick Capodice and Hannah McCarthy.
Digital production by Sara Plourde and Rebecca Lavoie.
Special thanks to Vermont Public Radio.
To learn more about the series visit our website: supervisionpodcast.org
Supervision is a production of New Hampshire Public Radio.