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

Sleep in Peace, by Brandon Hope

Awake behind walls of concrete,
Stay away wicked thoughts of deceit,
My appearance and my name is clean,
The truth lies in my thoughts and my dreams.

Drift asleep and nightmares are present,
wide awake and life’s still unpleasant.
Through the pain, hate is the norm.
Utilize love and make it form
the new norm,
a brand new society,
one where to get justice –
there’s no need for rioting.
Where there will be no battles where none should exist,
Now I understand why we hold up our fist.

The power’s in us, united at least.
Once we accomplish this goal,
I can sleep in peace.

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

Keep on Marching

How much longer do we have to march the streets in protest?

Our words can be seen from space, but we’re still not being heard.

We are still being killed in public, beaten in public and our young generations are being harassed and/or arrested for petty crimes just to have them in the system instead of being given a warning or a citation.

It took a deadly virus (I call a blessing in disguise, even though I’ve lost family and friends) to remove the blind fold from our eyes and now we can see all the injustice world wide.

— I believe the President is trying so desperately hard to reopen businesses to put the blind fold back on us, so we can no longer see the injustice and continued brutality from the police, to get the people back to work to stop the protest of the Black Lives Matter movement. —

Keep on marching as long as you can until we are heard; do not let them put the blinds fold back on. Black Lives Matter!

– Brandon Henry #1493358
Woodbridge, Va

Prompt: ‘Criminal Cop’ Justice Reform

The conceptual lines that formed the basis for the childhood game of cops and robbers has been destroyed.

Though many of us knew of the ambiguity associated with criminals and law enforcement projected in mob movies by the depiction of the crooked cop, and ambiguity through the vicious images of cops’ mistreatment of black lives captured during the civil rights movement, the idea hasn’t been accepted on such a mainstream scale as easily as it has today. That’s with good reason I suppose: law enforcement’s intricate roll in the operation of society. Many would love to maintain the illusion of a perfect system (a perfect cop), rather than accept the fact that the system is finite and many people lose their lives at the present of its inconsistencies. So the back draft of the collective societal thought passes the blame on to the less essential. They will say: “Why are the cops killing black people? They must be doing something wrong…” But the presence of social media, free of expert commentators, leaves no room for harsh realities to be ignore any longer. The truth is becoming clearer – the ones sent to serve and protect have done so, not so much with communities in mind, but serving in the further corruption of their departments and unions, protecting shady cops from prosecution for their crimes of mishandling lives in their charge.

The term ‘criminal justice reform’ has taken on a new skin… in the matter of less than a year. This reform is now focused on the policing of cops… a funny idea if I should say so myself. The administrators of policy and law still have to administer laws, even if they’re new ones, right? That thought itself gives me goosebumps… as I’m not sure exactly how to ‘police’ police better. Honestly, I thought the implementation of the body cams would suffice for effective policing of police, and yet others have lost their lives with mysteriously no body cam footage of the account… only civil bystanders armed with phone mounted cameras, capturing truths that would of otherwise been buried in mounds of disinformation and political jargon – aimed at furthering the decades old agenda of being “tough on crime…”

Writing Prompt Assignment:
What further can we do as a society to make sure that lives like George Floyd’s aren’t taken without healthy fear of prosecution?

Write your experiences with criminal cops. Write your ideas (if any) for changing the way cop are held to the letter of the law. Write between 2-5 paragraphs, if possible.

Make sure you add your name and any other information you might want people to know about you.

– Q. Patterson, Creator, Organizer, Writer, VADOC #1392272

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know (incarcerated or formerly incarcerated) wants to write on this prompt this month and be featured on BrillianceBehindBars.com, send an email to yourlovedoneq@gmail.com with the essay and bio to review, or we can add inmate numbers to our Brilliance Behind Bars JPay to allow them to contact us directly.

Uncertainty (FEAR/COVID-19)

I know the purpose of this writing prompt was to shine the spotlight on how the incarcerated individual is coping with his fears and the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m sure others will leave you all thoroughly informed on how this virus has been effecting the day to day operations in prison. Therefore, my approach will address a fear the prisoner and the free citizen both share in common. And that is the uncertainty surrounding the job market and our ability to provide for ourselves in the post-Coronavirus world.

The April jobs report shows that 20.5 million jobs have been lost. This has pushed U.S. unemployment to its highest levels since the Great Depression, and it has virtually wiped out all of the jobs recovered since the 2008 Great Recession.

I wonder what will our new normal be when the smoke clears? Will local small businesses recover, and if not then how will this effect the economy in my community? How will corporate America respond? Will they downsize the number of laborers and other minimal skill positions that people like me need? And if so, then what employment opportunities will be available to me when I am released from prison?

I expect that the post-COVID-19 world will look something like this:

When you go to retail stores and fast food restaurants there will be less cashiers and more self-serve/self-checkout lines where patrons can use touch screens and credit cards.

Within factories, manufacturing plants, and warehouses all over America the automated machines will outnumber the people on the floor. And trucking companies and delivery services will replace drivers with autonomous vehicles and drones. Even janitorial positions will be effected by industrial robots that sweep and mop floors.

I fear that any job that can be performed more efficiently and cheaply using artificial intelligence, corporate America will replace even more of their human employees with robots. I know that it is the essential workers in these minimal skills jobs who are the most expendable. I know that it is the essential workers in these minimal skills positions who were the most exposed and some of the most vulnerable. And I know that corporate America is cold blooded enough not to give a damn about whether these minimal skills people can keep food on their table, or pay their rent to keep a roof over their heads. All corporate America cares about is their bottom line.

There are stores and companies that have already invested in this type of technology. Anyone with eyes can see that this is where the future is heading. The only reason this trend hasn’t become a full fledge transition into automation yet, is because the technology is still too expansive. However, as the necessities of the society drives demand and innovation, more technological advancements will be discovered. Today’s time consuming and expensive methods will be replaced by cheaper and quicker methods. It is crisis like this pandemic that drive this sort of entrepreneurial spirit. Thus my fears are inevitable.

In my book, APOTHEOSIS LORD SERIOUS HAKIM ALLAH’S HABEAS CORPUS APPEAL, I suggest that learning the skill of computer coding will provide job security for people like me. This is a skill that is in high demand. Since most companies will be using AI and robots. They all will be in need of humans to secure their networks, run diagnostics on their machines, and perform trouble shooting when glitches occur. Learning the skill of computer coding will make you an indispensable asset to society. I hope this encourages you to look into new career opportunities. Unfortunately for me, the Virginia Department of Corrections does not provide this sort of training to those within its’ custody. (Smdh). Peace!

– Lord Serious Hakim Allah / J. Boughton Jr., Chesapeake, VA #1404741

Lord Serious Hakim Allah is the author of the controversial book APOTHEOSIS LORD SERIOUS HAKIM ALLAH’S HABEAS CORPUS APPEAL available now on Amazon.com for $10.00 plus s/h. It is a must read.

Fear: Writing Prompt

The year of 2020 was anticipated with promise of change. Many of us prisoners here in Virginia were looking towards possibility of some relief, but as quickly as that light came, brilliant and burning with hope, the quicker that flame was doused and the gloom of despair and uncertainty reclaimed the reigns of our community. This time, the darkness came in a form fit for global impact – a pandemic. pestilence. 2020: affectionately dubbed the year of clarity and vision by most of us, has quickly wrapped into 2020: the year of the coronavirus.

Incarcerated populations across America have been affected by the disease at various rates. On the low end, staff’s refusal to work in possibly infected areas is slowing operations. At the high end, the highly communicable virus rapidly spreading throughout the confined quarters of prison communities, where social distancing is literally impossible.

So far, there is no apparent sign that the virus is here at Lawrenceville, but the proliferation of COVID-19 across cable television, the woes of our family members by phone, the statewide directives locking down prisons, and distributing sneeze guards keep fears fluid and real from one side of the gates to another.

Fear: the surrender of the help that comes from reason.

Behind the walls, fear is king. As incarcerated people, we deal with a set of fears most others do not. We depend on staff for almost every necessity. If conditions became somewhat apocalyptic and society destabilizes, prisoners will either be legally executed or abandoned in cells to futilely fend for themselves… a fear permanently etched in the back of the mind, and at the center is the motivation for all fear — the idea of survival.

Prompt: Define fear in your words. What are some of your fears? How do you see yourself overcoming them? What do you think could be done to alleviate today’s fears of sickness and death?

– Quadaire Patterson, Creator, Organizer, Writer VADOC #1392272

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know wants to write on this prompt this month and be featured on BrillianceBehindBars.com, send an email to yourlovedoneq@gmail.com with the essay and bio to review, or we can add inmate numbers to our Brilliance Behind Bars JPay to allow them to contact us directly.

Limitation.

FREEDOM.


What does this word mean to me? 7 letters with such a powerful impact that becomes more than the actual verb of the word itself. What I thought was freedom – able to come & go at will, no limitability – was just barely scratching the surface of what it truly represented. See, being incarcerated for a long time gives new meaning to simple (everyday) normalcy; and with time normally comes wisdom & insight. With that said, knowing the dynamics of its core definition, freedom does not necessarily mean that one is free to do whatever (without barriers). It just means you’ve been let go (for temporary purposes). But don’t get it twisted, you’re not all the way free. You still got limitations on your blackside. As a human being, coming into existence puts a limit on you; so you are never “free” to really be free, or have freedom.

A good prime example: this COVID-19 virus that is seriously affecting the worlds population right now. There is no freedom in that or from it. Young or old, big or small, hot or bitter cold, it affects all that comes into contact with it. This strips all of their “so – called” freedom in one form or another. If its not the virus itself, then its the government restrictions placed on society’s movements. New news for all of us!

Freedom is something that one will never really experience, due to life limitations & restrictions, no matter how much or hard one tries to achieve such. It’s just one of the many possibilities that we’ll never reach, no matter the exerted energy into it. Sad as they say, but so very true to the essence & core of the meaning. That’s my take and overstanding of the issue here.

– D.Moyler – Words of Wisdom :-), #1119539, Virginia