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.