Posts Tagged ‘Reentry’

maxresdefaultA young black teenager wakes up and rolls out of his twin size bed in a room he shares with two other siblings. It is hot muggy and smelly, but he dares not open the small dusty window. The window leads to the back alley and he fears letting in the big black flies that buzz around the trash scattered throughout the alleyway. The same flies that pestered him all night long.

He stares around the room and sighs, “how much longer will things be like this?” he questions himself as he pulls himself up out of bed. He pulls on a pair of dirty jeans and a stained t-shirt. The same outfit he has worn three times this week. He grabs a old worn out pair of Nike’s and the sweaty smell causes him to cringe. He heads down the short hallway to what passes as a kitchen, in search of something to eat.

“The same ole thing.” He murmurs as he stares into the half empty refrigerator. He finds more relief from the cool air that blows out the refrigerator than the food inside. All he finds is processed meat, cheese, milk and other food scraps. He grabs the milk and takes a big swig from the container.

He steps outside into the summer air and sits on the stump. The day is bright, but not that promising for him, the sun is shining, and the city is starting to come alive. He notice more and more white people, people he has never seen before. Young, old, hip and seemingly carefree, walking their dogs, talking on the latest I-Phone and drinking coffee. Some walk by him and stare, as if he is new to the neighborhood. Some hardly notice him at all. They are the ones that he despise the most.

He lights up some K2, he can’t afford a real bag of weed. Plus he is on probation and a dirty urine will send him back to jail. It is bad enough his probation officer is on his back to get at job. He was just given 30 more days to get at job, or else. The young man knows he is on borrowed time. He does not have a GED nor vocational skills. He has no money to get to and fro so he can’t get to the job interviews.

As he begins to feel the effects of the K2 he begins to think of what is to him a master plan. What is this plan? Commit a crime. What crime? A petty robbery. He thinks it is safe to snatch a phone from someone getting on the subway.

He heads out in search of a unsuspecting victim. He searches high and low. He begins to get frustrated and agitated that he cannot make his move. It is getting late in the day and his agitation beginning to mount, as well as his desperation to rob someone. As decides to stop and take a break. He stops in front of the corner store and sits on a crate. While sitting on the crate he notices an elderly man walking towards a new Audi. “Dam, if I can get that joint I can sell it and make some money.” He tells himself as he stares out at the elderly man. He creeps up behind him and hits him over the head with a bottle. The old man falls to the ground, stunned and bewildered. It takes him a minute until he realizes he is being mugged. He begins to fight back. The young man was not expecting this and panics. He begins to stomp and kick the old man. Blood is spurting all over the parking lot and the man has passed out, or so he thinks. He finally gets the keys, jumps in the car and pull off. He smirks to himself as he search for some music to blast as he heads back across town.

Two days later the old man dies. There is a police outcry and man hunt for the young man. The community is shocked and want justice for the old man. They want blood. They call for longer prison terms for violent offenders. They want to keep them in prison longer. They want to be safe from these violent people. Meanwhile in SE another young teen wakes up to the same conditions. Poor, living in an underprivileged/underserved community, where cheap synthetic drugs are easy to get, hopeless, plotting to pull off the master plan. A petty robbery. One that will almost certainly turn tragic.

This is the story of so many youth across America. This is the story of many of today’s incarcerated population. They are the victims of social disparities that cause them to victimize others.

Criminal offenders, by nature of their actions and involvement in the criminal justice system, are typically regarded as social outcasts. Truth be told they were social outcasts long before their direct run in with the criminal justice system. It is only after the act of a senseless crime that they are noticed. At this point the community wants to put them away forever. They are not to be trusted as they cannot conform to the decorum of society. So it is best to label them as violent, to invoke fear in the public, and keep them in prison for a long time.

There is a lot to be understood when it comes to criminal offenses and penal reform. First, crime is a result of poverty, racism, homelessness, substance abuse, mental health and social/psychological issues. Crime is a result of lack of education and ignorance. Crime is a problem that cannot be locked away. If the public response, if the President and other members of government, is to lock away crime then good luck.

That response to crime is the reason why there are 2.3 million people incarcerated. It is why the US spends 50 billion dollars a year fighting crime. In 1982 the cost of incarceration was 44 million. In 2001 that cost was 44 million. The current cost of incarceration is 80 billion dollars, annually. Each year the cost of fighting crime and incarceration increases while crime has not, significantly, reduced.

There are four goals of incarceration, and none of them actually addresses the problem of crime. The current practice of incarceration focuses on incapacitation, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation. The way to reduce crime is to target it before it happens. All of the current measures used to fight crime and lock up its offenders are all post crime related. If this continues to be the means of addressing the rise in crime and the way it is dealt with, the chances are slim that there will ever be a significant decrease in crime.

The response by the public is motivated by fear. Many fear the stories they hear about across the news and other media outlets. It is as if they are only privy to the worst of the worst stories. The stories that make them feel unsafe when they see the “stereotypical” soon to be offender, or the recently released offender. The stigma and stereotypes play in the the psyche of many of them. These thoughts and ideas are hard to change and overcome. This is why the generalization of this term violent offenders should be used with caution. Every person convicted of a violent offense is not necessary a violent offender. Just as most drug offenses are connected to drugs, whether abuse or sale, most violent offenses committed are connected to drugs. In fact it is safe to say, with the exception of the most extreme cases, drugs is the major connector to almost all crime. So it is unfair, and not good penal reform, to discredit and disregard those violent offenders as people who do not suffer from the same social disparities as the rest of the members from their population.

Would it not be a good solution to include, as part of the sentencing process, violent offenders in the actual solution finding process. It those people who have, in hindsight and they say hindsight is 20/20, realized the error of their ways, and understand what it is that other members of their communities are experiencing, that have better ideas, ideas that are realistic, to solve these on-going problems. It is not uncommon for guys of rival crews, that have beefed for many years, to set their differences aside, while in prison, to live and co-exist in a peaceful manner. Most begin to realize how stupid it was for them to be at odds from the beginning. Now that they have come to this realization they look for ways to get those on the outside to stop killing and harming each other. Fact:  Never has law enforcement put an end to street wars and beefs. It is when, and only when, the members of those communities say enough is enough. Until that happens there is no stopping it. It is time for law enforcement and other law makers to open up their eyes and take note of this fact. As much as they may want to claim it was, some how, their work, they are sadly mistaken. Which is why when crime and violence surges again they are at a lost. They have no recourse other than lock’em up. If it was that simple the gang violence of Chicago, Los Angeles, and other places would have been solved years ago. Generations of gang members incarcerated yet gang violence has reached smaller cities and communities. As the tendency is to re-locate when things get hot. Not stop the violence but merely take it somewhere else.

Dealing with this issue is a challenge but there are effective ways to deal with it. People have to become properly educated, on all levels, and learn to work together. Everyone has to be included. Right now we live in time of arbitration. Everyone is pitted against someone else. The common news is cops against blacks. Or this group against that group. Or that group against that group. At some point people are going to have to come together. This means those incarcerated with those on the outside to bring about the solutions needed to save our communities. It is one thing to re-name incarcerated people as returning citizens. It is another thing to actually allow them to be citizens. Being a citizen is to be part of a community. If you want offenders to come home to the DC area and act accordingly they have to feel like they belong. They have to feel like citizens upon their return. If you change the way a person thinks of themselves so will their behavior change.

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Dear followers and friends,

We thank you for your dedication in staying updated with Talib’s blog and story.  Right now our family is readying to attend a quarterly meeting of the U.S. Parole Commission.  At this upcoming meeting we plan to raise our concerns about Talib’s case, his recent denial of parole and set off of 5 years.  In anticipation of this important meeting, we have been gathering our resources, pulling together letters and people who plan to attend by our side to voice their support for Talib.  You too can play a role and help Talib’s voice be heard and our concerns listened to.  Sign our petition to show your support for the U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider their denial of parole to Talib M. shakir.

Here are the details:

http://www.change.org/petitions/u-s-parole-commission-reconsider-the-recent-parole-decision-for-talib-m-shakir

Here’s why it’s important:

We, the undersigned, call on Mr. Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Chairman, U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider Talib Mustafa Shakir for immediate parole. Talib has grown from a confused, misguided youth into a focused, mature adult. He has been a positive influence among those around him, as was displayed in the show of support by the deputy warden, and we are confident that he will continue to display this outstanding character upon release into society.

Talib M. Shakir has served 20 years in federal prison for an unfortunate crime he committed at the young age of 17.  Having immediate remorse for this crime, Talib has been on a path to change his life around for the better ever since.  He has made remarkable achievements while incarcerated, including receiving his G.E.D., barber’s liscense, physical training liscense, and making strides toward a Masters Certificate in Life Coaching.  He has enrolled in numerous college courses as well as facilitated several Victim Impact courses and workshops.  His role as a mentor and life coach has touched the lives of countless youth, inmates, and ex-offenders, many who now lead successful lives on the outside.

We who await Talib’s release from prison have felt firsthand his personal contributions to society and ability to improve lives.  We recognize his high potential for full rehabilitation and fully support his chance at release on parole.  We know and trust that his skills, dedication, and compassion will lead him to continue his positive work here on the outside, where he can be surrounded and supported by his family and friends who miss him dearly.

We ask the U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider their denial of parole atTalib’s July, 2013 parole hearing.  We ask them to go with the recommendation of the hearing examiner, who recommended him for a release date of March, 2014.

You can sign our petition by clicking here.

Thank you for your support!

The family and loved ones of Talib

Week 5 Victim Impact October 31, 2013

This week I began with a quote: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” (Fyodor DostoevskyThe House of the Dead (1862))

We began the class discussing the mindsets that are bought to the prison environment and how they shape our visions for the future.

We also talked about the collateral damage that is a result of incarceration.

“Conviction for a crime, still more a sentence of imprisonment, may itself undermine family cohesion ad security, destroy the offenders prospects, result in loss of employment and assets, all quite apart from any legal measures…Those who commit crimes as youths may outgrow criminality as the get older but they may never be able to outgrow their criminal records.”
I talked about who really suffers from the acts which we have committed, the ripple effects. It is the family that suffer the most often.  That the suffering and penalty for incarceration does not stop when we are released.  But, that for the men there is a certain amount of degradation and loss of respect within the family. That the mere fact of having gone to prison for 1 day can, and is often set up to, destroy a lifetime of credibility.

The criminal justice system is a machine that is designed to do just that, destroy. What has to be understood is that there are no direct links to crime and incarceration. Crime is a result of poverty, under-education and urbanization. Incarceration policies do not respond to crime but to political agendas and climates. Underemployment , drugs and violence help create that climate due to the subculture that exists in these communities. That is what this system is designed to do. So it is no surprise that many men return to prison as the communities that they come from, and go back to, are still plagued with the very same issues that were there before they went to prison. So, there is a serious need to educate others to how to come up out of these conditions. To understand the collateral damage and find ways to work around it.

I also talked stats. In 1982 the cost for incarceration was 9 million a year. In 2001 the cost was 44 million a year. Today the cost of incarceration is 80 billion a year. Yes!! 80 billion a year!! Yet, crime has not been reduced. In fact between the years 2010 and 2011 violent victimization increased from 4.9 million to 5.8 million, an 18% increase. More money is being spent on a concept that is not working. Prisons are not reducing crime and violence yet more prisons are being built; more money is being spent than ever before.

Many of the men were receptive to the idea that they contributed to the conditions of their communities. That they are the ones that have to go back and make the effort to get it right.

In these classes, although they are not typically coaching forums, I use the skills that I have learn to get the guys to see what it would look like. What would it look like to live in a safe neighborhood? What would it look like to come home from work and be a father to ones kids? What would it look like to be respected and really loved? Many of the men, from the hardest to the meekest, all had something to say. That it would feel good to live in a community where people were not be shot and killed. Were their kids were safe from drugs and alcohol. Where they could send their kids to school i safety. So the next question was simple. If this is the community we want imagine how many other people want the same thing. Now imagine how many dreams we have destroyed, by not acting in the community that we come in a manner to be like the one that we want for ourselves. The way that others want it to be for themselves.

Surely no one wants to live in fear under the constant threat of violence and abuse. In fact many of the guys in this situation are here because we had to be a certain way so that we could survive, day to day. It is up to those that know to teach those who do not.

I challenged the men to pick up a book. There is no way that some of us have seen everything and done everything under the sun but a book! I mean it when I say that most of these men have not read a book in years. I asked them what is there to fear in a book? Maybe it is that the truth is to be found, the truth about who you really are. If that is the case than there may be reason to be afraid to open one up. When you look at the reality of most of us we have been shot, stabbed, mugged, drugged from home and imprisoned, put in cells days on top of days with out running water. We have been made to endure long trips across the country chained and shackle, eating stale and old cheese sandwiches. Yet, the thought of opening up a book scares most of us to death.

After class I had a conversation with a guy that is starting to get it. Time will tell, is what i told him. See it is easy to do the right thing when there is someone constantly watching your every move. This is not change. This is getting by, playing by the rules. What happens when the ex offender stigma will not allow you to get the job that you want and you have to settle. Are you going to remember this? Are you going to have the same resolve to do the right thing?

To be incarcerated is easy. There is nothing to do but breath. Yes there is danger. But, there is danger everywhere in the world. The only thing that most guys are dying from here is boredom and stupidity. I often feel the same way. There is no more lesson to be learned for me. Me being incarcerated at this point in my life serves NO purpose. So what am I doing here? Nothing too exciting, other than being bored have the time. They say that an idle mind is the workshop for the devil. Hence the stupidity that guys are getting caught up in. Due to the boredom that exists.

The real punishment is when one is released and have to fend for himself out there. Are you ready for this, is what I asked the young man. Are you ready to make choices? That is what freedom and liberty means. It means that you have to make choices and you have to be responsible for the choices that you make. He said that he was. I truly hope so.

Until next week Peace!

Today September 25 2013 marks a day of many firsts. A day where someone dreams came true a day where a miracle was performed. It is also the day that marks the graduation of eight men, incarcerated men, who graduated from a Life Coaching Program inside a prison facility. This was a landmark event here for men who have been on a journey to not only change their lives but the lives of those around them.

It was a day where others were about to see the rewards of their investment of time, money and energy. It was a day where some of these men completed something that will lead to a life of fulfillment and success.

I had the honor of being one of those men. I had the honor of living part of a bigger dream. I had the chance to meet my mentor, coach and friends from the outside world, as they shared this day with me. It may not seem like a big deal when you think small. But, if you think that any time that you can effect change in the world today was a very big deal.

These are the men that are going to go back to someone’s neighborhood and either build it up or tear it down. These are men that are going home at some point and either going to influence others in a healthy and positive way or corrupt them. I am sure that these men are going to be productive in their future endeavors.

One of the things that I shared with those that were present is something that I want to share here. It is a small piece on how fleas are trained.

The way that fleas are trained is that you put them in a cardboard box with a lid on it. The fleas will jump and hit the top of the cardboard box over and over again. After a while you will notice that the fleas will continue to jump but not high enough to hit the lid.

When you take the lid off the fleas will continue to jump, but they will not jump out the box. They will not jump out because they cannot jump out the box. Why? They have conditioned themselves to jump just so high, that is all they can do.

How many people do the same thing? They restrict themselves and never reach their full potential. Just like the fleas, they fail to jump higher, thinking that they are doing all that they can do.

When I am asked about Life Coaching and what it is that we do here this is a good way to sum it up. I try to help others who have been conditioned and programmed to think that there is nothing else to life other than what they have experienced.
Most men, the vast majority, have been conditioned to think that there is nothing else to life other than the neighborhood in which they were raised. You see this often with the guys that get the names of their streets and neighborhoods tattooed on their bodies, even their faces for some. What does this say about ones conditioning?

Would it not be better to have a program that is designed to help these men and women recondition themselves? To be able to experience life for another aspect. I think that it is something that can be done and will be beneficial to the lives off all of those involved.

The program the has been created here is a program that will propel the men here that are involved to the next level in their lives. The inaugural graduation marks another phase of the process. Another tool to use to help others reconnect with themselves and others.

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

I just read an article yesterday that really blew me away. One of the things that I always hear, as most people, is how the various generations in this country are very different. I never understood this and why it is so important for people to hold strongly to those concepts that they identify the most with, within their generations. As apposed to seeking out the things that work and have been successful within all of these generations to make a better society. Well, yesterday I had one of those “aha” moments. One of those moments that spoke to my spirit and soul.

There is an article in The Sun magazine (July 2013) written by Katti Gray called, The Run-One Sentence, that spoke of the story of Eddie Ellis and his journey through a 25 year sentence and what he did with that time and how he lives now. I have never read anything about the prison experience and felt that I shared so much with the writer.

One of the things that really stuck out to me was the generational differences yet at the same time the similarities. It is almost like feeling stuck in a time capsule while doing this time, and to hear the story of an 86 year old man that did 25 years and went home shortly after I came to prison, i felt that it was me speaking in this article. The same frustrations, fears, apprehensions, concerns, zeal, motivation, insight, and desire to make things right were all the thing that we shared and had in common, similarities, yet we are generations apart.

So it leads me to believe that it is the experience that we have that provokes the way that we live out our values. It doesn’t matter what generation you come from it is the experiences that you have that define the way that you see the world and those in it. When I think about the state of low income neighborhoods and the conditions of these neighborhoods and its members it makes me think about how no matter the age or the era if the experience doesn’t change the people will not change. There are guys in my old neighborhood that are doing the same thing that they were doing 20 years ago when I cam to prison. The state of the people and the conditions are the same.

When I read of how Eddie felt when he had to check the young guy about the phone I understood what he meant and felt. I have had that happen to me before and it is always a battle between looking and being. In here it is not about being but looking the part. It is a fine line to walk.

When I am asked what makes me sad about this system I have to say that the lack of people that understand this system and what it takes to change to be a better person. There are so many lost souls behind these walls. Because we have been taught to shy away from those of other generations the youth are missing out on a lot. The answer to the experience lies with those that came before us. They are the ones that have experienced it and have the wisdom to deal with it.

One of the most important points that he made was the point about education being one of the main determining factors of reducing recidivism. I think that this is something that needs to be looked at and given consideration. One would be surprised by the outcry within the prison systems for programs that will make one productive upon ones return to society. For instance I was talking to a guy today who was sent back to prison from the halfway house. He was declared to have had escaped at a time he was at a government subsidized program taking an apprentice course test. So he was sent back to prison as a result of being late returning to the halfway house.

There are so many factors that weigh in on whether guys stay out once they are out. There are a lot things that are not working that need to be readdressed in order for guys to succeed. One of those things is education. There has to be an emphasis on education and an incentive for guys that succeed in that area. Not punishment.

I am at that place that Eddie was prior to his release and I could not be more thankful to read his story and find that I am not alone in what I see and have gone through. It is as if those of my generation can not understand me. I mean not may of them can say that they have 20 years of doing time under their belt. Not that it is something to be proud of but who can relate expect those that have done it.

I think that this is one of the most up-close and personal accounts that the civilian can get as it concerns the penal system and the dynamics that lead to mass incarceration and the social issues that cater to the perpetuation of recidivism. Also the challenges that men and women go through in order to obtain the things that they need to make them successful, education and realistic programs. I give this article two thumbs up and encourage all of my followers to find it, read it and build discussions around it. I am definitely interested to hear the opinions and questions of others.