Archive for the ‘Parole’ Category

Dear Friends,
This past week we have seen some major strides. In just under 2 weeks, we have surpassed our first $1,000 in our fundraising campaign! We have also had our voices heard on this week’s WPFW Crossroad’s show with Roach Brown, and at the Enough is Enough protest at the U.S. Parole Commission office. Talib and I are grateful to all the people who have been supportive in helping us to navigate this difficult climate, find ways to plug in and speak up, and come closer to achieving Talib’s freedom. Your support – logistically, emotionally, financially, and so on – means a great deal and helps counter the isolation and struggle of fighting this fight. Thank you all!!!

Support our Drive: https://www.generosity.com/fundraising/talib-m-shakir-legal-defense-fund–2/

Currently there are about 2.3 million people incarcerated in American prisons. That number includes state, federal and local jails. Of that number there are approximately 2,230 people serving life sentences from crimes committed as juveniles. The current debate among politicians is criminal justice reform. As it concerns juvenile lifers the question, around reform, is how much time is enough time.

How much time is enough time for someone to serve in prison for an offense committed before the human brain is fully developed? A National Institute of Health study proposes that the part of the brain that restrains risky behavior. and thinking skills is not fully developed until the age of 25. Jay Giedd, the psychiatrist leading the study, told MSNBC earlier this year that this finding came as a surprise to him because he used to think that the brain was fully developed at the age of 18. In all fairness to Dr. Giedd most people have the same opinion, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other critical figures involved in the criminal justice process.

This issue is such a hot topic that Newt Gingrich urged Governor Jerry Brown to sign California’s Senate Bill 9, “The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act”, which authorizes resentencing opportunities for juveniles sentenced to life imprisonment. Mr. Gingrich in an op-ed piece written with Pat Nolan quoted,

“We did some dumb things as teenagers that might have caused a lot of harm. You probably did, too. Gratefully, we didn’t harm anyone too badly, but we cringe about how clueless we were about the possible consequences to what we did. Teenagers often don’t make very good decisions. Our laws take this into account in many ways. We don’t let young people drink until they are 21, and they cannot sign contracts, vote or serve on juries until they are 18. But there is one area in which we ignore teens, youth and impulsiveness: our criminal laws. Our laws often ignore the difference between adult and teens. and some youngsters are sentenced to life in prison. Should those youngsters remain in prison for something they did when they were so young? Wouldn’t it be better to re-evaluate them after serving a long stretch in prison and consider whether they have matured and improved themselves?”

In October 1993, at the age of 17, I committed an offense I deeply regret. I was involved in a crime where someone lost their life. An act committed under the influence of alcohol. An act not intended, nor excusable, and deeply regretted. As a result I was charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult. I was given a sentence of 20 years to life. Due to the seriousness of the offense I was fully aware that I was going away to prison for a very long time. I made a bad choice and justice had to be served. As of now I have been incarcerated for 23 years, three years longer than the twenty years the judge sentenced me to. How did this happen may be the question you are asking. I will get to that shortly.

When I first arrived at the state prison I immediately began working towards seeking knowledge. I knew that education was going to be the thing that would help me get through this sentence. I had, and have, a thirst for knowledge and love the process of seeking it. After I obtained my GED I began the UDC prison college program. It was my goal to graduate with a BA in Urban Studies. (The current national average recidivism rate is 0.4% for those that are released with at least an AA degree; however, it is 70%, at the national level for those released without sufficient education.)  Unfortunately, the program was cut and I was not able to complete my studies. That did not stop me from pursuing other educational goals.

Here is a list of some of my achievements over the last 23 years:

GED
UDC (college program)
Georgetown University (college program)
I am a certified and Licensed Barber
I am a certified instructor of basic English
I completed the BOP’s Life Connection Program, an 18 month, 1588, therapeutic residential community program
I have completed several drug courses, anger management and family courses
I learned (self taught) fluent Spanish and Arabic. My job for many years has been teaching Spanish GED and ESL
I have taken computers, Microsoft Office classes, and I am computer literate
I and a certified teachers aide. Through the Department of Labor I completed a 4000 hour course that allows me to serve as a teachers aide
I have taken building trades that required over 500 hours to complete. Also Residential Construction Electrical Principals that required 300 hours to complete
I have been the lead facilitator for several programs: Thinking for a Change, Quality of Life, Victim impact (taught in conjunction with Dr. Tony Gaskew, Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Pittsburgh). My favorite course was Concerned Offenders for Youth Awareness (COYA). COYA was a program where I worked with at-risk youth through the Maricopa County Youth Probation Department, in Phoenix Az. They were brought inside the prison were we were able to mentor them.
I have certification as a Drug and Alcohol Abuse technician
I have recently completed two major courses. One as a Peer Recovery Advocate, someone who works with mental health patients that may struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. The other course I completed through Adams State College is Victim Advocacy. Learning these skill allow me to work with victims of crimes and other abuse.

Most importantly, I have skills and training as a certified wellness and personal development Life Coach. It was a goal of mine to bring the concept of Life Coaching to a prison I was in. I was able to do that through a program sponsored by the Institute for Life Coach Training founded by Dr.Patrick Williams, who also became my coach mentor, friend and advocate. This program, in FCI McKean, has graduated over 90 inmates. Inmates who, upon release, can seek employment, or further their coaching skills. To list the recommendations I have would take up a lot of space and time. But, those people include Senators, an ex-Captain of the KCPD, Chaplains, College Professors, Wardens, and the list goes on.

In 2010 I had an initial parole hearing. At that hearing I was parole eligible but due to the nature of the offense I was recommended a 1 year set of until my next hearing. The final decision comes from the US Parole Commissioners. They set me off for 3 years. In 2013 I had a rehearing and was recommended parole. The USPC Commissioners sent back a decision to set me off 5 more years. Yes, I was given more time the second time at the second hearing while it was noted I was a better candidate for parole at the re-hearing. At the second hearing my staff representative was the Associate Warden of Programs. Not to mention the employment opportunities I had available, housing, community ties and support, along with money saved. But here I sit.

Why am I explaining all of this? Because as my family and I try to raise $20,000 for an attorney to represent me against the parole board. I need your help. I feel that if I am going to ask for you help and support that you know exactly what and who you are supporting. I want you to feel that your donations are being contributed to a worthy cause.

What is the cause? Yes, it has to do with me but it also address a bigger issue, and answers the big question. How much time is a enough time for a person who committed their offense as a juvenile to serve? How much rehabilitation is needed to prove to the parole board that a person is ready for society.

I need this lawyer because she is going to help gather other experts to show that I am not the same 17 year old kid I was 23 years ago. The board’s reason to deny me parole; I have the same propensity to commit crime, and that I am a danger to public safety, based on my behavior at the age of 17.  Regardless of what I have achieved during my incarceration, my record of the last 23 years of my adult life. Despite the fact that experts have determined that most people outgrow crime around the ages of 35 and 40. What I have presented to them is not enough so I have to go the extra mile. I need your help to get there.

After reading this piece. What do you think? Do you think 23 years is enough time to serve for an offense committed at a time when the brain is not fully developed. Do you think, that after reading some of my achievements during my incarceration show, I am ready to return to society and be productive? If you do please donate to this cause.

Donate whatever you can. Post this story and pass it on to your friends, family and colleagues. Your donations and generosity will not go unnoticed and will be appreciated. I am ready for society. I am ready to be productive and live life as a productive upstanding and law-abiding citizen. I need your help to make that happen. So please help by donating, any which way you can. All you have to do is go to this link, Talib M. Shakir Legal Defense Fund, and make that donations. You will not regret it.

Thank for your help and participation!
Talib Shakir

Dear Friends & Family,
I’m reaching out to ask for your support for our legal fee fundraiser: “Talib M. Shakir Legal Defense Fund.”  As many of you know, Talib was unjustly denied parole in 2013, despite being more than qualified and having a recommendation for release (read more about his 2013 parole hearing.  Your donations will help us hire our highly esteemed lawyer, Attorney Linda Sheffield, to fight for Talib’s release.  We have been fighting  this decision for a long time, and have now found an accomplished lawyer with a strategy designed to win.  Your support means making the dream of bringing Talib home a reality.
with peace,
Sakeenah

I first want to apologize to my followers for being negligent in posting. The last couple of years has taken time for adjustment. I am back now and more focused than ever. Despite the struggles and hardships I am still here. Although I have not posted anything for a while I have been keeping up to date with the latest prison reform issues. I ran across an article the other day and I thought it would be interesting to blog about it. I would like for others to pass this on, post it on your sites, face book pages, or anywhere else that may attract the attention of others.

Within the last year, there has been much talk about penal reform, reduced sentence, and changes in sentencing guidelines. Most recently Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Republican Tony Goudy (R- SC) and Democrats Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) introduce two legislative proposals related to the federal system. The H.R 759 Recidivism Risk Reduction Act; a bipartisan legislation that uses risk assessment tools to reduce recidivism, lower crime, and reduce the amount of money spent on the federal prison system. According to the Washington Post. Chaffetz goes on to say, “It’s no longer enough to be tough on crime. We have to be smart on crime as well. States have successfully implemented those strategies. As a result, they’ve seen a recidivism drop.” Congressman Richmond chimed in on the conversation by saying, “Our criminal justice system is in serious need of reform in many areas… One of these areas is our prison and post release supervising system. We need a better approach to incarceration that use effective strategies to reduce recidivism. Ensuring that people get the right programs and activates while in prison is used to ensure they are prepared for success after their release. I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to move us closer to that goal.”

The H.R. 759 bill would allow for inmates to participate in programs that will allow them to earn good time points, while in custody. These points will be allotted based upon an inmates risk level. There will be level ranges from low to high. Low risk inmates will be allow to earn 30 days credit per month, moderate risk inmates 15 days and high-risk inmates 8 days. These credits will make them eligible for alternative custody, halfway houses, home confinement, ankle monitoring, etc. The portion of the adjusted sentence would be the remaining 15% of the overall sentence. The current federal sentencing guidelines, Truth in Sentencing, require for federal inmates to serve 85% of a sentence prior to being released. This program does not extend to certain offenders such as sex offenders, terror offenders and violent offenders. In short the federal government is looking for ways to make their more prison system more incentive based. They cut prison costs and reduce recidivism. In theory this plan is a good, at best. The question is will it work? Will it achieve the stated goals?

As we talk about federal housing it is important to talk about another type of prisoner being held in federal prisons, DC billable inmates who need to be accounted for, as talk of prison costs continues.

DC billable inmates are Washington DC’s prisoners that have cases out of Superior Court, (similar to state court). Federal prisoners have cases out of District Court (federal courts). DC’s Lorton Reformatory began closing in the mid 90’s. The last prisoner left in 200; when they closed the prison for good. DC inmates make up a large population of inmates hosed within the federal system. They are a mixture of prisoners serving sentences under different sentencing guidelines. One such guideline is incentive based, similar to the H.R. 759 bill. The main difference between the two is this particular DC sentencing guideline does not exclude inmates and two the DC guideline is a parole-able guideline. The federal system abolished parole many years ago. Although their are DC inmates sentenced under incentive based guidelines, where they would be rewarded for good behavior and program participation, those guidelines are not being honored nor applied when they have their parole hearings. These parole hearings are conducted by the United States Parole Commissions, which it the entity that handles the remaining federal parole cases. The USPC seems to be having a hard time applying these DC guidelines in many that is non punitive. There are DC inmates that have the privilege of seeing a parole board, they have meet many of the incentive requirements of the 1987 Good time Credit Act yet the USPC refuses to parole them, relying on punitive measures to justify giving them lengthy set off. How can Congress expect the H.R. 759 to be different than the DC guidelines, that are not being applied.

There is a large gap in theoretical planning and actual application of these bills that are being introduced. When they are passed they often take years before actually implementation. At that time someone is thinking of another strategy to use. DC inmates, who have the right to parole and early release are not being paroled, yet other bill are being proposed that will allow for other inmates to be released earlier, based on incentive approaches. Both, federal and DC, inmates contribute to the large amount of money spent for federal inmates. In some cases DC inmates cost more to house, up to $40,000 a year is paid to the federal government to simply house each DC inmate.

Will this new bill work? Will it achieve its goal?
Currently the recidivism rate is 70%. Meaning 7 out of 10 inmates return to crime. Recidivism is not bases solely on the return of inmates to prison but to crime and criminal behavior that leads to incarceration, subsequently re-arrest. Social scientists and others who monitor these stats have determined that crime and incarceration are not parallel. There is no direct relationship between the two. In fact according to Dr. James Austin of the JFA Institute, as it concerns DC inmates who are overseen by the USPC, in his findings, when asked to conduct a study at the request of the USPC to determine if the criteria it is using to parole DC inmates were valid. He concluded these criteria’s are significant as they serve to significantly lengthen a prisoner’s period of imprisonment by many years.

The study also looked at the extent to which DC prisoners who are housed in the BOP system were receiving programs and what impact these programs were having on recidivism rates, for DC inmates. The major findings were:
(1) DC prisoners released in 2002 who had been sentenced under the DC code (1987 Good Time Credit Act) as compared to other state prisoners had much longer sentences and served longer sentences.
(2) Consistent with other studies, the amount of time imprisoned (length of stay) is “not” associated with rates of recidivism.
(3) Most of the risk factors being used by the Commissions to assess risk are “not” good predictors of “recidivism”.
(4) An alternative risk instrument that relies on the conduct of the prisoner and programs he of she has completed while in the BOP does a better job of assessing the prisoners risk level.
(5) The Commission is also using factors (crime severity and prior records) that are not related to recidivism that are being used to significantly extend the period of imprisonment

Dr. Austin concluded his testimony to Congress by making recommendations, based on his findings. Recommendations that have not been fully applied. Some of these recommendations include:
(1) Changing the guidelines and implement a new risk instrument that takes into account the prisoner’s conduct while incarcerated (dynamic factors)
(2) Alter the current practice of extending parole eligibility dates based solely on the offense severity and history of violence; especially given the long period of incarceration for DC prisoners and the lack of relationship between length of time served and recidivism.
There should be a concerted effort to reduce the length of imprisonment and parole supervision based on good conduct and completion of programs while incarcerated within the BOP. Such efforts would include allowing release at and earlier stage of the sentence, awarding of good-time credits for prisoners who complete rehabilitative programs and allow for the period of the parole supervision to be reduced based on good conduct. Given that dynamic factors related to prisoners completions of rehabilitative programs are associated to lower recidivism rates, a study should be conducted by the Commission and the Bureau of Prisons to determine if DC sentenced prisoners are receiving the same level of services as other BOP prisoners.

He concluded his testimony by stating that the USPC Commissioner, BOP, DC sentencing Commissions, DC Criminal Justice Council and the US Attorney and the Community Supervisor of Offenders Agency would take part in the changing and implementing his findings. Unfortunately, many DC prisoners are still waiting for this study conducted circa 2007 to be implemented.

In order to determine if a new, improved, method of addressing recidivism, and offenders need, there needs to be a comparison and critique of what is currently in place, or by what came before it. If we were to change the name of the H.R 759 and read it to a group of DC inmates they would think that the DC regulations are what’s being referred to. They both share the same goal and purpose.

The H.R 759 bill is aimed at reducing recidivism (possibly so), lower the crime rate (never going to happen; as there are no concrete findings that support the claim that incarceration reduces crime), and reduce to amount of money being spent on federal prisons/prisoners (will happen without doubt). The question now is how will oversee DC’s inmates that have are allowed the same benefits and who, if applied, will effect the same same end results. Most importantly, reduce the amount of money spent on federal prisons/prisoners.

DC’s 1987 regulations are already enacted, and don’t need to be voted on. It merely needs to be implemented for those whom benefit from its application. An example would be my case.

As a young man I had my run-ins with the law. At 17 I was charged and tried, as an adult, for second degree murder. I was ultimately sentenced to 20 years to life. During the early years of my incarceration I served time with adult offenders, although I was a juvenile. Despite these obstacles I got my GED the first year of being in Lorton. Afterwards I began attending the Lorton Prison College Program, through UDC. I majored in Urban Studies. I attended UDC until I was one day selected to be shipped to a DC contract prison, Sussex II State Prison in Waverly Va.

Sussex II was a 23 and 1 prison. Meaning the entire prison was segregation. I was medium custody and due to the length of time I was serving I was automatically selected to be house in a maximum security prison. There were many DC inmates there, who had not committed any disciplinary infractions, house in segregation, as the entire prison operated as such. While there I began to teach myself Spanish. After suffering like this for a year, with no end in sight, I was told to pack up. I was next sent to Florence AZ, a CCA prison.

While at this institution I did not let the distance and unique housing situation deter me from programming. I got my barbering license along with a host of other programs. I facilitated a group call Concern Offenders for Youth Awareness (COYA). This program was similar to the scared straight programs that were popular in those days. My ability to relate to the youth earned me high accolades from the Maricopa County Superior Court Youth Probation Division. From were I received high praises and much gratitude. I had also began to learn Arabic, as I had become fluent in Spanish by that time. One night I was woken up and put on a bus with 40 other DC inmates. Off to another prison. This time it would be a federal prison, Edgefield SC.

While in Edgefield I participated in the programs offered there. I also, for two years, facilitated a class called The Quality of Life, a class endorsed by the Warden of the prison. It eventually became a pre-release requirement for the inmate population. After two years I was sent to open another prison. USP Lee County.

At Lee County I got my certification in small home improvement and carpentry. My points lowered, after 5 years, and I was sent to FCI Petersburg. While in Petersburg I got my certification in electrical wiring, and worked as a barber. After spending two years here I signed up for the Life Connection Program, a faith based program introduced to the federal system by then President, George W Bush.

The LCP, an 18 month,over 4500 contact hours of programming, focused on re-entry needs. I graduated valedictorian. After graduation I transferred, to be closer to home, as my initial parole hearing was coming up.

I arrived at FCI McKean and had my first hearing. At this hearing I was denied and given a 3 year set off. One of the reasons, needs more time to program. Unbelievable! I had spent 17 years programming and excelling yet I was told I needed to do more programming. I had taken victim impact classes, anger management classes, and other cognitive behavior courses. Courses needed to address the bad choices I had made as a juvenile.

In light of the 3 year set off, I stayed the course and continued programming. I designed a non profit program called The Reconstruction Program. A program targeting high-risk and at-risk youth and youthful offenders. I also began co-facilitating the Victim Impact class with Dr. Tony Gaskew, Criminal Justice Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. I also lead a class called Thinking for a Change. All done while teaching and tutoring Spanish GED, ESL and Spanish as a Second Language.

I was part of the re-entry team. Through this team we formulated a mentoring program targeting younger offenders who had needed extra help in the area of education. We also started a Life Coaching group and through that group I was able to help bring in outside support. An official Life Coaching course through the Institute for Life Coach Training was instituted in the prison. The founder, Dr. Patrick Williams, would become not only my mentor but a good friend. I also applied to an outside school to become a certified Substance Abuse and Alcohol Technician. I also got my Certified Personal Training certification. These two achievements were paid for out of my own money.

Three year later, 2013, I had a second hearing. I went to this hearing with the Associate Warden of Programs as my staff representative. She spoke on my behalf and supported my release. My unit team also spoke on my behalf. My family, friends, and outside supports all sent letters of support. I had a release plan, money saved, two jobs lined up and higher education opportunities. The hearing examiner recommended parole. Everyone thought it was a sure shot. The final decision was a set-off of five (5) more years. The reason. I was not deemed fit for release and my release would endanger the community. The once again claimed I had on-going criminal behavior. I have not had a write up in over 20 years.

What an incredible story. This is my story. The story of a guy that entered prison a 17 years old, who fought against the odds to not become a prison statistic, yet unable to make parole. The people who this new bill, H.R. 759, will apply to may not have half of what I have, in terms of programs and skills. One the system no longer offer the classes that I was able to take many years ago; before the system became all punitive. Yet, they will be released sooner.

My story is not the story of why we need to be tougher with sentencing. Or why we should not let guys out of prison early, violent or non-violent. This is not the story of why there needs to be a tougher enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences. It is the story of a man who has done his time, in fact more than the time of the sentencing courts. 20 years to Life with the possibility of parole if these conditions are meet; you obey the rules and remain incident free, you have proven to have made steps to turn your life around, make better decisions, and remain crime free. That is what the assumption is when dealing with sentences such as mine. Although I have fulfilled more than what would be normally required I was given more time to spend in prison. In a system that is looking for ways to kick people out in order to cut cost. What is the irony in that?

Why is this story important and significant? As the federal government look for way to cut costs, reduce crime and recidivism there are a lot of guys, such as myself, who have served their sentences, participated in programs, and are eligible for release yet the USPC Commissioner will not grant them parole. Citing non-factual reason to justify doing so.

Tax-payers are paying $320,000 for me to stay in prison longer. I am sure most members of society would say that I would be a good candidate for release. There is no telling what will happen at the next hearing. I don’t think I can top what I have done thus far. So who knows when I will be deemed suitable by the USPC Commissioner. What a waste of money. I am steady fighting, to no avail but I am fighting. Would someone make sense of it.

It is important that as lawmakers propose new bills that they ensure the ones that are in effect are being applied. It makes sense to put to use that which is already on the books. It also helps set the foundation of success for newly proposed prison reform bills. It is easier to measure success and failures along the way, too.

By all means this newly proposed bill along with the other sentencing reform polices going into effect is a good thing. There are going to be a lot of people who will appreciate the changes. I do believe that the penal system, often referred to as draconian, needs reform. I just hope that along the way DC and federal inmates get what they each have coming to them, in terms of these reforms; what the law grants them is what needs to be adhered to by policy makers. The law provides hope for many and has to be practical on all levels. Not just as a means for behavior modification.

Hopefully things will change for the better for guys such as myself and others. It has been a long time coming but change seems to be on the horizon. Let’s hope that as the pendulum seems to have, once again, swung to the side or rehabilitation that the powers to be make the right proposals so that when the pendulum swings back to punishment, as it always does, the penal reforms that are in place now will not be cut or overlooked. As it seems to be the case with DC’ prisoners.

Note: This article was taken of the blog site of Talib Shakir, avoicefromtheinside.wordpress.com. (with permission)

About Talib

Talib Shakir is a DC prisoner that has been incarcerated 23 years now. Although his sentence was 20 years to life he will have served 8 additional years before his next hearing, 2018. That is if he does not get that parole set off overturned. He is working on that now. He maintains a blog site, through his family, called A Voice From the Inside
(avoicefromtheinside.wordpress.com) You can visit him there to learn more about what him. You can also visit the site.

Talib also has specialize training as a Life Coach with a focus in relationship coaching. He has used his skills to set up programs within the institution to help other offenders. Some who are soon to be released, and others as they adjust to spending the rest of their lives in prison, lifers.

To learn more about his affiliation with the coaching world you can look up Coaching the Global Village, Founded by Dr. Patrick Williams MCC, BCC. Dr. Williams also is the founder, who now serves as the dean of training, for the Institute of Life Coach Training. Now owned by Dr. Ellen Ritter. Click on Reconstruction Program to learn more about the program he designed.

Along with coaching he facilitates other pre-release class, victim impact classes, and teaches GED Spanish (a language he taught himself, along with Arabic and now Portuguese), English as a Second Language (ESL) and Spanish as a second language. He also serves as a motivational speaker and speaks often at different institutional events.

He story is one that needs to be shared with others as when the discussion of penal reform arise. There is more to the story than we may commonly hear. Sometimes it is best to hear it from those that are on the inside. There view is just as relevant as the view of others.

I am having a hard at answering this question because it appears to me that there is little faith and hope that I can redeem myself.  The funny thing about redemption is that it often takes someone else  to set the stage for it to take place.  Meaning there has to be a willingness on the behalf of others to trust you enough to allow you the opportunity to redeem yourself.  Almost like a champion boxer, as long as he has the belt he can pick and choose who he wants to fight.  So ones chance at a shot at the title depends on his willingness to let you fight him.  So nothing else matters without his consent.

I feel like that underdog fighter begging for a shot at the title, at a chance to redeem myself.  The one that is often overlooked and never taken serious.  Have you ever seen that person?  Often when that person gets the chance to show off their skills they leave a heck of an impression.

I guess freedom is like that and society is that ring.  I liken it to that in some many aspects. There are a lot of men and women that have been in here training for that big fight and redemption.  The fight that no one thinks they can win.  The fight of their lives.  All odds are against them and all bets are on!  These men and women are begging for the chance to show that they can succeed if given the chance.  The sad reality is that some of us are never going to get that chance and the never have that opportunity to show the world what we really are made of.  We will never get a chance to leave our mark on the world.

Everyone that comes to prison is not bad, even though prison is where they send bad people.  I think that the society is starting to realize this, that all people in prison are not bad.  There are some fighters in here, waiting to get out and show the world that they are not bad people.  They are training for redemption!

I thought that the training that I have been going through for the past 20 years would have made me a good contender for a shot at the title, the world.  But, it is obvious that there are still some doubters out there that do not think that I deserve that title shot.  That I do not deserve redemption.  The only way that I can get out and redeem myself is that they have to let me out and give me a shot at that title.  I know that I will leave my mark and a heck of an impression on the world!  All I need is that shot at the title!

Where does hope come from in a time and place of adversity? That is the question that I have been asked a few times in the last week since finding out that that I was denied parole and given another 5 years.  It is hard to explain that when you come to find out that you are and have been that beacon of hope for so many people for so long. I have heard quite a few times in passing and directly that if a person like me, who has conformed to the rules and regulations and has exceed the expectations of almost everyone, can not make parole and be given another chance at society, how can I even think about it?  This is the mindset of a lot of the men here at this moment.  Some of them have vowed to give up attending programs that were once thought of as programs that would be looked at favorably. They have vowed to not make the effort to spend too much time involved in programs that would be perceived as making the prison look good.  To these men at the end of the day it does not matter and therefore they have lost hope.

What message does this send to our society? That the system does not believe in its own system of rehabilitation. That is the message that everyone is getting here. So it has all been a lie. The masses have been lied to and made to believe that there is a system set up that will make them safer as a society.

One of the statements that come out is that if I can’t make parole, or if I am not deemed parolable, who is? Like that is the question of the day, no of the century.  If a person who had the full support of the Executive Staff, and had one of them speak on his behalf and say that I was ready to go back out and that once I arrived there I would be productive, is not deemed appropriate for release the question is (1) who is appropriate and (2) who are they letting out?  Aren’t those the people that know the best?  Those that are around you and monitor you? They are the ones that can say if and when a person has done all that can be done to become better.  The message that is being given here is that they don’t really trust the system that is in place to gauge when an offender has taken the steps to change.

The other day a bus arrived here and on that bus of 40 inmates 10 were violators of parole.  Some of them never even made it out the halfway house.  Two weeks ago a bus arrived and on the bus of 40 inmates 22 were violators.  Now I know that there are quite a few obstacles out there in the world but look at the numbers of guys that are coming back to prison.  Now that was just the count of the past month.  A bus arrives here every other week and out of every bus there are at least 5 violators on a bus.  So who is being let out of prison?

When I went to the parole board I had all of the requirements that are needed for one to get out and stay out.  (1) I had a job (2) I had family support (3) i had a savings of money to start out with (4) i had community support (5) I had a stable crime/drug free residence to go home to (6) I had all the proper paper work that is needed to obtain proper ID.  So I had all the things that were needed to get out and stay out.  So a person who knows this, and most of the inmates here did, is not deemed appropriate for parole it kills the hopes of those who don’t have half of that.

One of the things that I have been telling guys is that when things happen we have to find ways to overcome them.  A lot of guys here have had their hopes dashed and have become pessimistic in the possibilities that they have in their lives.  I tell them that they must push on because the road to success and personal development is uphill and will be a struggle. Personal development does not stop because someone denies you something.  When one is one a journey to be become a whole person it takes trials in different areas to reach that wholeness.  So, this is a time for me to practice what I preach.  It i hard but it can be done.  Nothing is going to deter me from reaching the goals that I have set for myself.  I must continue on and work harder.

Where does hope come from?  It has to come from within, anything else may create some entitlement and false expectations.  When one understands hope they find themselves aligned with faith.  Faith is not this esoteric concept or solely a concept of religion.  It is a drive and determination that resides in all of us.  When hope and faith are aligned together people achieve great things.  Obstacles that seemed impossible at one point become possible and achievable. That is the message that I want to sent to others. That there is hope I just need to keep the faith!

August 7, 2013 was one of the most disappointing days of my life, as I was denied parole for the second time.  Not only was I denied parole but I was given a harsher set off than I was given the first time that I saw the parole board. The first time I was given a 36 month set off, three years, and this time I was given a 60 month set off, 5 years.  Which is crazy considering what I have going for me in terms of support.

I went to the parole board with the Associate Warden as my staff representative. For those of you who don’t understand what that means let me tell you. That is the second highest Executive Official in the Prison, second to the Warden. That person has to have the approval of the Warden of the institution to be present.  So in essence that person was there to represent me with the approval of the Warden.  So that is like the ultimate staff support that a person can get.  This person spoke of all of the things that I have done here in terms of teaching and facilitating classes.  Classes such as Victim Impact which is a very important class and course for violent offenders.  This person stated that based upon my behavior and actions within the prison that it was clear that I would be productive in society.

I showed the board that I was a good candidate for parole as I demonstrated and proved that I had covered all of the risk factors that are associated with recidivism.  I showed and proved that I (1) had strong family support, ties and a place to live, (2) that i had all of the necessary paperwork needed to get a valid identification, birth certificates and social security card, (3) I had a job lined up waiting and had been in contact with other organizations to come and do volunteer work that may have lead to gainful employment with them, and (4) I have done a substantial amount of time incarcerated with no infractions nor new/continual criminal conduct.

The time between my first parole hearing three years ago and the hearing this June, 2013, I went outside the institution and sought education.  Education that I personally paid for.  Education that is not even provided in the institution.  So that showed my continual achievement of programs.

It is not often that a person comes before them with the support, plans and goals that I have.  It is not often that a person who came to prison as a child makes the mature adult changes and choices that I have made.  It is not often that one comes to a parole hearing with the highest of the executive staff speaking on their behalf.  It is not often that a person comes to the parole board with a genuine and reputable mentor who has invested time and energy towards the success of that person to be denied parole.  Not only denied parole but given a harsher penalty than the first time.

If I am not a prime candidate to make parole my question is who is? I was referred to as model prisoner by one of the staff members.  It makes no sense and everyone is stunned by the decision.  It has even affected the way that the other inmates see the possibilities that exist in their lives. I was like the beacon of hope and motivation for these guys and the way that they see it if I can’t make parole how can they.

The reason that they used to deny parole is that due to the nature of my offense, there is a high probability that I will not obey the laws of society.  That reason is in total contradiction to what I have done in the last 20 years and what I am doing now.  I have been a big advocate for victims and have taught those classes.  I have also done other work that has been shown to improve the well being of others and have fostered good relations between the men and their families and communities.  So even from here I have been active in being pro-social.  How is it that I could not do it out there with more resources at my disposal?

Not to minimize my offense, but for those of you who may be wondering.  I have a regular street crime as my charge.  That means that there are no extraordinary elements to my crime.  It didn’t involve women, children or elderly people.  Nothing that would warrant what has happened to me in regards to the set off that I received.  Furthermore I was 17 when this offense was committed.  I am being punished as if I was fully aware of the penalty and repercussions of my behavior at the time . Not to justify my actions, but it is relevant. 

To be fair to all I will just briefly recap the events of my offense.  A guy was killed in a failed robbery attempt. The ironic thing is that I made this poor decision trying to get to a better place.  A place that offered support that was needed for me to be successful.  At the time I didn’t have the means to pay for the travel expense and in a desperate and foolish attempt to get the money needed I borrowed a gun and bought a 5th of gin to calm my nerves.  For some reason I thought that I could just do a harmless stick up.  In my mind I never thought that anyone would buck up against a gun.  When I went into this place there was a clerk sitting on the freezer who, I didn’t know at the time, spoke no English.  So when I ask for him to lay down he jumped up and I panicked and fired the gun.  He was about 15 feet from where I was at.

One thing that came out in trial was that there was no way that I intended to shoot the guy due to the gunshot wound.  He was shot in the neck which was consistent to the motion of him standing up. I had the gun aimed over his head and when he stood he became lined up with the gun.  Had I intended to shoot and kill him he would have been shot in the body area as the gun would have been pointed at his head and his upward movement would have changed the target of the gun.  Due to that evidence I was convicted of 2nd degree murder. The board is judging me and making decisions as if I intentionally went in here to kill this person during the robbery. They are making independent decisions despite trial testimonies and legal decisions that were made in my case.  I never denied the offense.  When I was captured I confessed and expressed regret for that act.  That is not what hardcore criminals do.  That is not what people who intentionally kill people do.  The judge in my case recognized these elements and sentenced me based on those mitigating factors.

What I did was reckless and careless, and I have done my time for that act and have done the best that I could to offset that act while incarcerated.  So, at what point am I allowed to redeem myself and repay my debt to society by entering back into society?  I can’t do it from in here.

In fact to demonstrate how punitive this measure is, usually when the board denies someone parole it is to give that person enough time to get a needed program of evaluation.  So they say, we are gong to deny you parole for 2 years so that will give you enough time to get a GED.” So they tell the person what is needed to make parole.  In my case because I have already done everything, they set me off and cannot even recommend that I take a program or get an evaluation during the time of the set off.  So it becomes clear that they want to be punitive by punishing me with out even telling me what is needed of me to make parole. That is because I have done it all. There is not another program in the BOP that I can do, I have literally done them all.  This suggests that they do not believe in their own system of rehabilitation.  If they did they would give me the parole that I have worked hard for.

How is it that a child, literally, is punished as an adult and serves his time as an adult and conforms to all of the rules and regulations, goes above and beyond what is necessary and achieves high recognition to not be given a second chance at a time in his life where he is less likely to recidivate, according to statically findings. What logic and reason is used to make that decision?

I am making a plea to all of those that follow me on this site to aid me in fighting this decision. To call to attention the system that is in place and demand answers from the people that make these decisions.  What criteria is being used when deciding these cases?   Why has my case been denied parole, and what exactly is expected of me to achieve it?

I am reaching out to those advocates of juvenile justice, penal justice and human rights, as well as concerned members of society to seek justice and answers.  At a time where this country is in difficult and challenging economical strains, does it make economical sense to spend $40,000 for the next 5 years, totaling $200,000, for my continued incarceration?  A person that has clearly rehabilitated? This in itself should cause one to be concerned.  I am not the only one.  If there are five of us, which there are, that is 1 million dollars spent.  There are approximately 2.3 million people locked up in the U.S., and if there are just 5,000 people being treated the way that I am being treated?  The math speaks for itself.

This is a time where some of America’s most conservative leaders have spoken out about the issues regarding teen offenders.   Newt Gingrich has openly opposed the way that juvenile offenders are treated and dealt with in the system.  In an op-ed with Pat Nolan he says, “We did some pretty stupid things as teenagers that might have caused a lot of harm. You probably did, too. Fortunately, we didn’t hurt anyone badly, but we cringe now at how clueless we were about the possible consequences of what we did.”

Teenagers don’t often make very good decisions. Our laws take this into account in many ways:  we don’t let them drink until they are 21, and they can’t sign contracts, vote or serve on juries until they are 18.  But there is one area in which we ignore teens’ youthfullness and impulsiveness:  our criminal laws.  The application of our laws often ignores the differences between adults and teens, and some youngsters are sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Despite urban legends to the contrary, this law has no exceptions:  A teen sentenced to life without parole will die in prison as an old man or woman.  No exceptions for good behavior, no exceptions period.  No hope.

You might expect that these LWOP sentences are limited to the “worst of the worst,” but that is not the case.  A young teen can be a bit player in a crime, e.g., act as a lookout while his buddies go in to steal beer from the convenience store…About 45 percent of the inmates serving LWOP for teenage crime were not the person who caused the death.  Yet they will die in prison of old age, with no chance for release.  But should these youngsters die in prison for something they did when they were so young?  Would it not be better to re-evaluate them after having served a long stretch in prison to consider whether they have matured and improved themselves?

“We are conservative Republicans, and we believe that some people are so dangerous that we must separate them from our communities. That is what prisons are for.  But sometimes we overuse our institutions.  California’s teen LWOP [law] is an overuse of incarceration.  It denies the reality that young people often change for the better.  And it denies hope to those sentenced under it.  Of course, not every young person going through the system turns his or her life around.  But would not it be better to at least consider whether these inmates have matured and improved themselves after a long prison stretch?” (As quoted by Newt Gingrich)

So in light of this what does this say about a person such as myself who has demonstrated that I have matured and changed my life for the better?  Where is the justice in that.  I think someone needs to call Newt and ask him about my situation.  Like hey Newt here is the perfect example that what you consider to be appropriate in terms of release for juvenile offenders of violent offense that have served a long stretch.  Why can’t I get out and I don’t even have life without parole?  I have life with parole. So if a person who has demonstrated this with a parolable sentence can not make parole how is a teen with a LWOP going to ever be given a second chance?  Makes you think and wonder.

I am appealing to those interested parties to send this out to your colleagues, families and friends, teachers, professors, advocates, law centers whoever may find interest in this to join me in finding out solid answers.  Answers that are needed that will hopefully help free me from prison,  sooner rather than later.  One this that has been proven is that longer sentences create a loss of ties with the family and community. How is it that at the time where I would be the most productive I could be denied the chance to go out and be productive?  Is it that they are holding my age against me? I am 37 now and will be 42 if I have to do this whole 5 years. What if they decide to set me off again 5 more years? Now I would be 47. What productive years do i have left in me? I just become a product of another system that tax the American public because now I become too old to compete in the work force. That is the system of welfare and subsidized ex-offender government programs.

Pass the word and get this message out. It is what this site is about, A voice from the inside. This is a voice that needs to be heard. This is a call to action to see that this voice gets heard and to challenge those powers that are trying to suppress it. Please send this and link this message to you loved ones, friends and colleagues. I want as many people to know of this and hopefully stand in support of me as I fight it. It is important that you sign up as followers so that you get the updates as they come.

My plan is to formulate a letter that can be used by all to send to the parole commissioner asking for a reconsideration and a reopening of my case. The more support that I have the louder the voice becomes. If you know of anyone that has access to any type of media outlet, contact them about this story.  Whether it is through another blog site, the associated press, or NPR, and so on.

In closing I want to say thank you all for you support and I hope that this message is heart felt and taken into consideration by all.  I will be sending out another letter along with the address to write to.  If there are any specific questions that you have for me that may help you come to a decision please feel free to voice them, no matter what they are.

Thanks all