Guarantee For Success

The Guarantee For Success is what comes to my mind when such topics relating to freedom are presented to me. Yes, the prison doors in Virginia are going to be opening up like never before due to a piece of legislation that was passed in 2021 General Assembly.

Many offenders are going to be released before their expected release date! But the reality is that freedom wont be valued as long as the contents of a man’s heart won’t be challenged beyond the crimes that lead them to prison. Character refers to the moral, strength, self discipline, fortitude or a good reputation. It is also what enables you to act on your integrity, which guides you to believed what is right or wrong. Yes, it is right for us to have this discussion but it is also wrong if everybody don’t play their part, and get a grip on not just prison, but the person as well.

Yours truly, Leroy Williams, of Deerfield Correctional Center

Rehabilitation, by Jerry James

Here at D.F.C.C, the inmates are very grateful that a new bill has been moving in the General Assembly to grant us the opportunity for some type of relief! However since 1995, the abolishment of parole, Virginia has not implemented any type of beneficial reform that would allow inmates to be released earlier. Nor has the V.A. D.O.C. given any incentive programs that will encourage good behavior and allow inmates to be released back into society. Therefore, we believe this bill, SB378, will be a great addition to prison reform.

You have individuals serving lengthy sentences looking forward to only 4.5 days a month – is that really an incentive to behave? This current law that’s in place is a hopeless law, which is the truth in sentencing act.

Let’s take for instance, myself, Jerry James, a first time offender who has done 22 yrs on a 38 year sentence with 11 years to go. I will admit in the beginning of my sentence, it was rough on me mentally. I really felt hopeless and didn’t see signs of relief. I gave up on the moral principles that I was raised upon and conformed to what I felt was normal prison life to fit in, as so many others that are in my position.

Then I came to my senses and realized that my decision did not only affect me, it took a toll on my kids and family and loved ones too. In order to change, I had to take the necessary steps to improve and change my way of thinking. I enrolled in mind changing programs such as Breaking Barriers, N.A. and A.A., Thinking for a Change, peer support groups and also going back to the way I was raised and got myself back right with God. I took Commercial cleaning class, plus I received my G.E.D. along with being Valedictorian of my graduating class. Now I am receiving my Associates degree in Biblical Studies at Revelation Message Bible College in Jacksonville, Florida. I have been charge-free for 17 years, so it is possible to do so, despite the many obstacles that I constantly have to hurdle to continue my rehabilitation!

I also hold the most trustworthy job at this facility, working for the Administration such as the Warden, Asst. Warden, the Major, Captains, and Lts, doing Custodial Maintenance and keeping their offices clean, along with hallways, floors, bathrooms, trash, sweeping, mopping and ordering supplies.

Therefore, I truly believe that SB 378 will be a great fit and will give guys something to work for to get home to their LOVED ONES!!!!!

Jerry James
Deerfield Correctional Center

Future

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X

This quote just spoke to me as I read it this morning – because for millions behind the walls, their outlook of a future is bleak. Their daily view of life is bars, concrete and metal. Their days consist of daily counts, consumption of food not fit for humans, wearing the same orange/blue/brown jumpsuits (for the most case). I ask, how does one prepare for a future when they have no idea what the future holds for them? They were given decades long sentences and laws continue to overlook them because of their offense. They are deemed outcasts, a threat to society and threaten public safety. Some are innocent and punished for exercising their right to a fair trial. Others were teenagers, immature or dealing with mental illnesses and made a bad choice. How can they prepare for a future when they are not promised one outside the walls? How can your future belong to those who are prepared for it, when their future lies in the hands of legislators and lawmakers!

Over the last month and even some in 2020, I witnessed lawmakers and legislators sit in a box, debating the future of thousands of men and women behind the walls. Having intense discussions about their very livelihood as if they were discussing a non-existent thing that has no life. When they were discussing the fate of a human—a person that lives, breathes and who has the same red colored blood flowing through their bodies as them.  But they argued and determined that their lives do notmatter. They made decisions to kill bills that would allow those persons to come home to people that love them, children that miss them and spouses that bears the weight of life without them daily. These lawmakers and legislators do not know what it feels like to live this life every day because at the end of each day, when they are done making choices and decisions that keeps men/women behind the walls—they go home to their family, their children, and their spouses. They go home to family dinners and spend time tucking their children into bed each night. They sleep in a bed that is plush and comfortable. They have access to an unlimited supply of necessities. They do not worry whether they will wake up to see another day. 

These men and women still strive to have a positive outlook on life. They still strive to lay the foundation of a better future. They do not allow their current situations stop them from becoming a better person. They have owned their bad choice. They are not making excuses for what happened to them. Daily, they are growing, maturing, and changing the trajectory of their future. They have not allowed the obstacle of their path deter them from working towards their FUTURE!

In the words of our first black President: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama

– Jerry James, Deerfield Correctional Center

The Cycle of Victimization

When will we, as a country, began to see crime as an extension of a vicious cycle of victimization?

I myself – a ‘convict’ – have been beaten, abused, shot, and stabbed… ridiculed, rebuffed, and victimized. None of my assailants were arrested, or put to trail. Even now, I do not wish the harshest of punishments to befall them. I wish only for a chance for their hearts and minds to be changed…

When I see people who have been victims of crime profess that the people behind bars should face more punishment, I wonder to myself how easy it is for people to forget that they (the ones incarcerated/the “criminals”) are victims themselves: victims of financial oppression and social oppression, victims of mental illness, victims of emotional dilapidation. It’s so easy to ignore the voices of those victims… easier to sacrifice the tears of ‘con-victims’ to appease the ‘real’ victims.

Do not misunderstand, I do not disregard their loss or abuse. NO ONE should have to go through such, life itself is hard enough. I merely want to offer a perspective that may hopefully open the mind’s eye and get us on a path to ending m the vicious cycle of victimization.

I hear the testimony of state senators about constituents as victims of rapes and murders. I also hear the testimony of incarcerated constituents as victims of molestations, fathers and family members lost to wrongful deaths, poverty and abusive upbringings… what I see, what I hear, rings a tone of hurt people, hurting people… is it right? NO. But neither is the outlook that the prisons that span this country coast-to- coast do not house the majority of the greatest victims of society.

This is an injustice that will only serve to further the vicious cycle of victimization… and continue to cost lives… to the grave of the prison system.

– Q. Patterson, BrillianceBehindBars Creator, #1392272

THOUGHTS ON VIRGINIA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

by Lord Serious

The sooner the inmate population within the custody of Virginia’s Department of Corrections learn that the General Assembly has no intentions of passing any real prison reform legislation, the quicker they will begin organizing their own political coalition to force their hand. Neither the Republicans, nor Democrats, in Virginia’s state legislature have any interest in passing any substantial laws that will effectively reduce the inmate population. Neither are they willing to pass any substantial legislation that will effectively prepare us to reintegrate back into society as a rehabilitated men and women.

So you want to know my thoughts on Virginia’s Criminal Justice System? Here goes: this is a criminal enterprise ran and organized by a mob of slave catching, thieves, and murderers. The purpose of this system has always been to oppress and repress the movements of Virginia’s Black population and this will never change.

The prison population does not have to continue to hope and pray that the very people making a fortune off of warehousing us will one day become more humane and enlightened. We may “pay our debt to society” by serving time. But this does not mean we have to comply with their demands that we permit them to exploit us for our labor or our financial resources. We have the power to disrupt and dismantle this entire system, and we wouldn’t have to resort to violence in order to accomplish this either. All we would have to do is refuse to work, and boycott Keefe Commissary, Global Tel Link, and JPay.

They have to feed us, and clothe us. So all the inmate population would have to do is give up the luxuries and comfort gained from spending our money, and our family or friends money with these blood suckers.

This system cannot survive without our compliance. Therefore, since Virginia’s Criminal Justice System is just a continuation of the Old Dominion’s long history of keeping Blacks in chains and shackles. I’m of the opinion that we should stop playing by their rules. I think if these politicians and government officials are not careful, a day will come when people in my position will stop waiting for these corrupt politicians and slave drivers to free us. Instead, they will begin thinking up ways to hit these slavers where it hurts.

As long as the expense of housing prisoners can be covered by the tax payer, the politician and government official can balance the budget.

But what would happen if the inmate population stops cooperating with this system, and they removed their monies from their DOC accounts? What if prisoners stopped allowing themselves to be used as a source of revenue?

What would happen if this same inmate population decided to cost the Department of Corrections money in other areas as well? What if there suddenly was a spike in the cost of medical treatment due to more inmates requesting sick call? What if there was an exorbitant spike in the cost to replace broken or damaged state property, because the inmate population suddenly became a lot more clumsy or careless?

What if every criminal defendant took their case to trial and opted for a jury trial? But before the verdict was brought in they had a psychological breakdown in the presence of the jury that caused them to become such a disruption in court that it forced judges to declare mistrials?

This may not amount to much in days, or even months… but what if this type of non-compliance and correctional disobedience was employed for a span of years? I wonder how much money this would cost Virginia’s Correctional System? Would their corporate executives still receive their Christmas bonuses? Or would they find that their ledgers show a decrease in profits and the slave business and the mass warehousing of human beings isn’t as lucrative as it used to be?

It is my opinion that it isn’t too inconceivable for these things to start occurring should the Virginia Criminal Justice System continue to refuse to accommodate the inmate population’s modest request to pass legislation that will permit both violent and nonviolent offenders with an equal opportunity to earn up to 30 days of additional Good Time at a GCA Level I.

Life demands a balance and if you are not treating people fairly, then the universe will produce an individual who will come amongst you to reset the scales.

Lord Serious is an activist and the author of one of the most controversial books of all time. Apotheosis Lord Serious Hakim Allah’s Habeas Corpus Appeal is a must read for those who hope to understand the era of mass incarceration through the eyes of today’s modern day slave.

It is available at https://www.amazon.com/Apotheosis-Serious-Allahs-Habeas-Corpus/dp/1734220201

My Race is Not a Crime

Here we go again, DAMNIT MAN, I’m sick & tired of being sick & tired of seeing my people wrongfully oppressed by these so-called authority figures.

What possible reason could you tell yourself to justify shooting a unarmed man in his back seven times? I can recall during this journey (bid), talking with an elderly white man, and he gave me a piece (a very valuable jewel) that made so much sence, I must share it with you in hopes that somebody else “Gets It” –

Guns were made for hunting, & you only shoot what you hunt and plan to kill & “EAT”, and since I don’t eat people (not a cannibal), I don’t shoot people!

My being born black should not be a crime, nor should it dehumanized my existence, my right to live in accordance to the standards set for all! If you got an issue with my blackness, then take your complaint to the Creator of all, cause I’m not the problem here, but your views of my race, ethnicities, beliefs, & values are. At the present, we are dealing with two (2) pandemics. One that is new, and deadly claiming over 200 thousand lives, and the other that is over 400 hundred years old, with probably triple the equivalence of a death toll and still climbing here today. Covid-19 vs. Racism. Instead of trying to get a seat at their table, we, as a people need to build or own table. Its doable, especially when we’ve built this country up from our blood, sweat, tears, & ideals. This country, which we claim to love so much was actually built on the backs of our ancestors whom where stolen from their native land, enslaved & forced to do what the others refused to do & given the worst treatment in return. We were viewed less than human. Know your value & self worth, cause we all as a race (the human race) matter beyond what these mere words could ever express. All life is special, & should be cherished as such. That’s Real Talk, that’s Equality!

Sincerely, D. Moyler #1119539

Lawrenceville Correctional, Virginia

Prompt: (Non)/Violent Criminal Justice in Virginia

The fight to dismantle a racist criminal justice system and free disadvantaged minorities from the grip of systemic racism is an uphill battle… Fear is the prime strategy for politicians who favor long term confinement and profitable human warehousing, rather than opting to see the human soul as capable and worthy of rehabilitation. Fear is easiest, because it does not have to be given to anyone. It is primal, and everyone already has it in abundance.

I caught a bit of the Virginia State Senate meet on prison reform and wondered to myself how easy is it to hide the truth of profile-fueled mass incarceration behind the myth of a colorblind justice, and promoting “community safety” as a means of pumping more young black and brown men through the proverbial prison pipeline…

The senators, representing their respective counties, some for numerous terms and spanning decades of elections, stood to give their uninventive political spiel. Lofty, fear-writhed narratives framing Virginia’s prisons full of rapists, murderous lunatics who can’t for Christ’s sake ever be trusted with civil privilege again… That fantasy propagated by our state senate is far from truth… I’ve also come to find that most politicians at the state senate level just so happen to know numerous victims of overtly violent crimes, and no people incarcerated for crimes of any type. I found that concerning… it’s the tell-tell sign of a major disconnect between politicians and so many minorities who are faced with the ‘awesome’ fact of incarceration illy effecting their families and communities.

The senate pleaded for an amendment that extented the good time earning credit to only those incarcerated that have charges falling within the category of “non-violent.” This provision does not meet the cause for which special session was prescribed – reformation for racial and social justice. The simple fact being that most falling under the non-violent criteria happen to be white ‘victims’ of the drug epidemic. Once again, a chance for some correction of the racist system to take place may be manipulated, distorted, and amended to meet the needs of the already privileged.

Though the provisions for “violent offenders” likes to cite murderers, rapists, and other sexual offenders as the centerpiece of its public safety interest, it is an examination of the more ambiguous crimes of desperation that exposes a line-teetering sensible policy making and subtle racist devices of the past still being unknowingly used to disempower and disenfranchise minorities today…

The crime of robbery, majorally effecting downtrodden poor minorities, a crime of desperation, is considered a violent crime whether actual violence occurred as a result of the act or not. A large portion of the prison system is made up of robbery charges… some were accompanied with coinciding charges identifying violence, such as malicious wounding or assault. Others, not so much.

A crime such as robbery is not a result of some mania or perversion of mind in most cases. This crime directly reflects the pressures facing a 1st world society and its social systems failing its most needed citizens. It is economical disparities that create the prototype robber, not some lust for violence. It just happens to be black and brown Americans that make up the lower side of that economical ladder. Black and brown men are no more violent than any other race in this country, therefore there must be some deeper reasoning behind the mass incarceration of these people.

Aided by time and information, the once ago capital of the Confederacy has made strides in the abolishment of racism… But the dismounting of monuments means little if the ideals behind those statues remains in tact and still dictate how minorities are treated in this country today…

Prompt: What do you think about the criminal justice system in Virginia and how they are separating violent and non-violent offenders?

What do people need to know about you that would show them that you are human? Imperfect, but full of limitless potential and capable of astonishing change…

We are accepting different form of expression, (writings, essays, poetry, and art) that highlight the question at hand.

-Q. Patterson, BrillianceBehindBars Creator

Social Mechanization

How many of us actually understand the complexities associated with social structures and their influence on the minds and lives of their participants?

It is a common thought amongst most of the incarcerated – that we are the sole producers of our fate… that if we are rejected, abused, or oppressed, it is solely our fault. That where we come from or the state into which we were born doesn’t hold power over our destiny. We are right, but only to an extent…

Most of us, here in the penitentiary, are obilvious to the influence of social machination. Which made it hard to understand what is now neatly prepackaged by media outlets as systemic racism. The common mindset of the incarcerated, myself included until recently, is that of self-determination. Nothing more, nothing less. That it was our choice to commit crimes rather than succumbing to pressures brought on by hostile environments and unfruitful conditions. It may be a matter of pride to take on the responsibility of our crime, than to acknowledge that there is a force beyond our control, before our time that has planted us in a position tilted in the favor of failure…

The design of racism and its effects are ideological. It begins in the form of idea, before it festers and works its way into culture, and then manifests into mental illusions, stereotypes and prejudices that the masses come to affirm as facts. The weapon most effective in a democratic society is that of idea. Once the people can be made to believe customized ideas, then laws customized to serve agendas outside of public interest can be easily accepted… leading to a social system that makes a single race out to be villains. Villains who should be kept down thus they rise up to enact some form of violent justice… politicians scapegoating on the backs of an ostracized and victimized people, all the while diverting attention away from political failure and corruption… sound familiar? It’s textbook Hitler.

Not only has the plague of racism infected the minds of the common American, regardless of race, those prejudices gave life to legalisation that created way for mass ghettos largely populated by black people, writhed with violence and poverty. It also gave way for laws that allowed mass incarceration and its great racial disparities facilitated by our American justice system. Even laws for gerrymandering and districting to render black voting less effective and obscure the practice of scholastic segregation.

Sure, many of us have heard of Willie Lynch (or maybe should educate ourselves on the subject) and his divisive philosophy designed to control black slave, but who could of thought that that same system and philosophy could be modified to control American citizens. The methods of divide, fear monger, and conquer… these are the foundations by which we allow our government to ensure that a great deal of young black lives are born and may very well die in specially designed situations manipulated generations (and may sustain for generations more), because of a hatred based on a fear they had no hand in creating…

Yes, the seams of the white supremacist power structure has been identified and called out, but if us as a people do not know where to look for sustaining, meaningful change, then what use is a strike… look into the system. Even though many of us did not experience Jim Crow directly, the aftereffects of its era still haunt our lives with racist laws that have a more subtle tone, are a little more hidden… activated by fear and racist undertones that still serve today to accomplish the mission of great racists, dead and gone… whose hate lingers on, hurting and killing innocents by the hundreds… and sabotaging children’s lives before they even get a chance to live them…

I encourage you to continue to fight, but know what you are fighting for. Want life. Want the right to live. Life for your children, life for your family, life for your human brothers and sisters… and know where to look to get it…

Knowledge is power. Power to change, power to grow, power to rise above…

All power to the struggle…

– Q. Patterson, Creator of BrillianceBehindBars

Man // Foundations

By Brandon Hope

Black man, white man, who am I man?
Oppressor or victim to oppression?

I am human, you can not second guess it –
but that tends to go in one ear and out the other.
The less that I’ve chosen one race over the other,
the deeper I dove in to the bi-racial struggle.

Confusion that’s when they can’t tell what’s my color.
Deception accusations when they can’t tell what’s my color.

Abusive repercussions cause I’m not quite my mother,
Abusive repercussions cause I’m not quite my father,
Abusive repercussions cause they don’t know what I am,
Abusive repercussions when I’m merely just a MAN.

My experience with racism is very different from most, being that I am a bi-racial man that comes from a bi-racial household. For one, my grandparents on both sides of my family are very bias towards the other race, so that was an interesting and painful experience growing up, never feeling accepted in my own home amongst my own family. Then, I got the same type of experience at school and in my neighborhood. So on top of the systemic racism that we are all faced within our neighborhoods, (the ghetto) and in our schools, I was dealing with it from my family and peers.

Now, I believe that racism can be fixed…. but only with hard work and time, because racism is inbred within the system (when I say the system, I am speaking of the American government).

Now, picture the system as a structure like a building. If the system was a building, then the issue that needs to be fixed is deep within the concrete structure, so the only option when there is a structural problem, is to build a new foundation. But to build a new foundation, we must first tear down the building; and the new building can’t be built upon another corrupt foundation. There must be no flaws, or we will have to tear it down again. There should be no hatred in the foundation, nor bias of any kind. We must find a way to utilize love, or at the very least empathy, and build our foundation amongst it.

The answer to racism is the most common and simple phrase you hear growing up – but it is also the most complicated – because America as a whole has still failed to master it. All we have to do is, TREAT OTHERS HOW YOU WANT TO BE TREATED!!! Think about it.

– Brandon C. L. Hope, From Hampton, VA

Prompt: Justice for All? Overcoming Racism in America

From day one, American children are unassumingly taught of a set of illusionary lines concerning race… lines that marked boundaries, established sides, and created imaginary boxes that have kept a great disparagement present between races in America, possible.

The American heritage can be accurately described as one giant story of racial volatility. Its origins are steeped in a history of industrial slavery, initiating racial proclivities sustaining major gaps between the black and white conscious in America since the emancipation of slaves. All the psychological devices used to engineer more complaint products in the slave trade, and ensure that the markets could be ripe with white consumers who actually WANTED to own other human beings, had some serious after-effects. Effects that have prompted a set of unspoken laws and rules that serve to preserve the series of debaucheries that created America and its debased heritage of racial inequality…

No present day American is totally free from the effects fore mentioned. The propagation of racial class and the absurd idea of an inferior or superior race forms the basis of what the present black-white social interaction is in our counter. The concepts of white privilege and black anger show the deep contrast of the American experience. The practice of widely accepted, government sponsored denigration of humans into property, is our history. Black leaders only sought out the complicated task of reconstructing the identity of an enslaved, newly-freed, newly- formed people, Black Americans. The first bit of culture Black Americans assumed for themselves was met with public skepticism and political fear-mongering. The majority and mainstream America instantly demonized it and branded the concept of “being Black” as a lunatic fringe, subversive counterculture. “Being Black,” they labeled as “aggressive” and “anarchist.” Black people were displeased and here to overthrow the government. “They’re angry, they’re loud, you should fear them…”

Time has exposed the truth and brought their devices to heel. The modern-mind of our nation now has experienced the advent of social media in the age of information, a Renaissance in thought on American society and race relations. Now, what do we do with it? We COULD say the atrocities committed against black people were done in the ignorance that befell a still growing America… sure, that COULD be said… but that’s for those who truly believe in the strength of human decency and the belief that love can and will transcend us all into a greater society. Still, for those select few, there is the essential task of activism – manifesting beliefs into the material world by means of work… regardless of color, right is right. That feeling that claws at the heart for change, is justice. It is real and it is one. It is the key to the next step in us all making America ‘greater than it’s ever been.’

Educate the mind, keep up the body, free the soul. All power to the brothers and sisters of the struggle… We are one nation. INDIVISIBLE, with JUSTICE FOR ALL…

Prompt: Write an essay, make art, or write a poem answering the following:

What is your experience with racism? Can it be conquered or overcome? Do you have ideas how to do it?

With the special session coming up, they say there’s a chance for change within the system. Do you see that helping or hurting chances at overcoming racism and achieving justice?

-Q. Patterson