TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING! by Jerry James

TALKING LOUD, but SAYING NOTHING!
TALKING LOUD, but SAYING NOTHING!
TALKING LOUD, but SAYING NOTHING!
TALKING LOUD, but SAYING NOTHING!

Every 2 years state Delegates run for election. They promise tax paying citizens they will do this and do that– TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

Some of them even tell you they believe in second chances any prison reform. TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

They get in front of cameras taking photos, talking to crowds, shaking hands. TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

Then they go behind closed doors having meeting after meeting not taking into consideration the outcome of their decisions, they make on people lives. TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

We say Black Lives Matter. We say White Lives Matter. We say Latino Lives Matter. We say ALL Lives Matter. But here we are 53 days and counting with the budget amendment to the enhanced sentence credit bill that affected a little over 8,000 inmates behind the prison walls. There are about 53% of Black men behind bars in VADOC. There are 38% White men behind bars in VADOC. There are about 2% Latino men behind bars in VADOC—and less than 1% of other nationalities behind bars in VADOC. TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

July 24th there was a rally for what happened to the ESC for our loved ones to show up to have their voices heard. Sad to say only about 60 people showed up. TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

Families are we going to stop TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING and rally together to fix the injustice that was done to all of us! So that your loved ones can get the chance they have rightfully EARNED! 

If you really care, you will get on board with prison reform advocates at the next rally coming up.  STOP TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

To the national groups like NAACP, we need your support too because you say you stand for Black Lives Matter. You say you stand for injustice to our people! STOP TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING!

There are many behind bars for some 15+ years that’s spent time rehabilitating ourselves, taking programs, remaining infraction free and maintaining employment. We are not the men/women we use to be–at least some of us are not. Why penalize us for the violent crime that is still happening in VA today. We want to help make a difference and join forces with the community, advocate groups and law enforcement to make change happen.

I say to you today, “You without sin cast the first stone!”  Let’s put an end to TALKING LOUD but SAYING NOTHING and start TALKING LOUD and DOING SOMETHING! 

Written by Jerry L. James, #1157844
Brilliance Coordinator @ Deerfield Correctional Center

Why I Believe “CHANGE” is Possible

I would like to thank you ll for this opportunity to share my thoughts and feeling, about the current status of the VADOC, and its policy. I have been incarcerated for almost 30 years, and by no means am I asking that anyone should feel sorry for me. I committed one of, if not the worse crime, I took another person’s life.

With that said most of the men incarcerated today (90-95%), will be released back into someone’s community. I know for many of you this is a very scary thought. Now that we know this fact, my question to you today is: who do you want that man or woman to be? One that has been given the opportunity to change, or a very angry person? The next question is: do you believe people are capable of “CHANGE?” If so don’t we want these men and woman who could be your neighbor, to at the very LEAST be given that chance.

In my almost 30 years of incarceration, I have held many jobs, some for the income to support myself. For the last 5 years, I have worked as an Elder/Peer Mentor in the Deerfield Correctional Center Re-entry Program, and I can say without a doubt this has been the most rewarding job I’ve held. This gave me the opportunity to see first hand that people can “CHANGE.” It also allowed me to help others, and myself at the same time. It is so amazing how much you learn about yourself when you are helping someone else. The other thing that I have learned is “CHANGE” is a personal choice, there is nothing anyone can do until the person wants that “CHANGE” for him, or herself. The best part of my job was to see that light come on for them. This is why it is so important to have these programs and opportunities in place for those man and women who want help. They may not always know how to ask, but I know change is possible because l have seen the change, and am lucky enough to be here to help these men when they are ready.

The very sad truth is under our new Governor, we have lost the re-entry program here at DFCC. The re-entry program provides the time and opportunity for these men to make that “CHANGE” in programs like Thinking for a Change, and Victims Impact. The focus seems to be more about punishment, not rehabilitation; which we all know does not work. If it did, why are so many men and women locked up today? I know it sounds great to say ‘lock them up and throw away the key,’ and if that was the end, that might work – but that brings me back to this fact: 90-95% will be released.

My hope in writing this is just to say we can “CHANGE.” I have changed, I have grown, but it was not easy. The most important thing is I wanted help. I have taken responsibility for all my action. I know I caused a lot of pain to so many good people, some that I can never repair. It also doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. The last thing that I would like to leave you with is: one of the answers to the violence that we are seein today is not the police – its men like myself, who will be willing to go out into those community and speak to these young men, and women to tell them there are other choices – you too, can “CHANGE.”

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. If you would like to contact me with your feedback, questions or a longer conversation, go to the app store and download the JPay app using my name and number to create an account and email me.

I have not lost hope and I won’t, nor will I give up on “CHANGE.”

Kenneth Bibbs #1114910
Deerfield Correctional Center

Reaching Out: About Prison Food

Thank you for the platform to express my ideas and comments. For the people that are not effected by the new bill and will be here for a while, this issue with the food we are receiving is slowly killing us.

Here at Deerfield Correctional Center in Va., it is a geriatric facility with men 45 and older. You would think that we would be receiving a well balanced and nutritional diet, being that our health and age desires so, but this is to the contrary. We only receive two vegetables a day and we are being served chicken bulk 10 to 14 times a week. This chicken bulk contains all the undesirable parts of the chicken and is highly processed and unhealthy.

The doctors here at Deerfield have recommended that we don’t eat this. The menu does not reflect this. They list meals like sausage gravy, texas hash, creole mac, sloppy joe, and spaghetti, but all these examples and many other entrees are made with the same meat (chicken bulk). So to the powers that be, it looks like we’re being fed an assortment of different entrees, but in reality we’re being fed the same meat over and over again. Sometimes 3 times in one day. We have written complaints over and over again to no avail. This matter needs to be addressed. Thank you.

MICHAEL LOISEAU

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

Sentence Modification: A Step in the Right Direction

Peace! My name is Darius Simmons (B.K.A. 7). I am currently 15 years in on a 22 year sentence. This is the first (and last), time that I have ever been convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison time. I didn’t kill, injure, or harm anyone. However I was sentenced 12 years outside of the sentencing guidelines that only called for 9 years, 2 months as part of a plea agreement. This is higher than my co-defendants who all had prior felony convictions.

During my incarceration, I sought out every avenue available for relief, to no avail. I even petitioned Gov. Northam for a Conditional Pardon, only to be denied after waiting for an answer for 4 years.
You see, I never once denied my role in my case and took full responsibility for my actions, but the sentence was woefully disproportionate to the crime and the Court didn’t take into consideration the fact that I had no prior record, and I turned myself in!

The first few years was rough. I had to learn the law, then I fight my own case to the bitter end with no legal assistance. After I exhausted all of my remedies, I fell into a deep depression as it felt like I had life sentence! At only 24 years old, to be faced with 2 decades can seem impossible to do. I eventually lost hope, started getting into trouble, ran my security level up, and ended up doing 5 years at a Maximum Security prison. It was there, after being surrounded by guys who had triple digits and multiple life sentences, that I decided to accept my fate. However, I realized that this isn’t how I wanted to live my life. So to ensure that I don’t recidivate once I am released, I made the decision to utilize the rest of my time to equip myself with tools that I can use to be legitimately productive in society.

I obtained my G.E.D., I’ve taken numerous rehabilitative programs, I received several Trades, maintained employment tutoring in the G.E.D. class, and becoming Teacher’s Aids in the Trade courses that I completed! I eventually worked my way back down to Security level 2 facility and been at D.F.C.C. for the past 4 years. The sad part about it is, I still have 4 years left to do! Its clear to see that I’m not the same young 24 year old kid that made a few bad choices. I’m now a 39 year old man with a Fiancée and 2 teenage kids who need my presence now more than ever! I have an aging mother who’s health is declining and I fear that I won’t get to see her again as a free man. Not to mention all of the loved ones that I lost over the years that I will never get the chance to see again.

The Sentence Modification concept and bill, which has already been adopted in D.C. and Colorado, if passed, will be a step in the right direction towards fairness in the criminal justice system here in Virginia. This would be for myself and countless other men and women with lengthy sentences, who are not who they were and deserve a ‘Second Look.’

Also, for those who are just starting out on a long sentence, just knowing that such a policy exists, provides an incentive that will motivate a person to want to rehabilitate themselves, hold themselves accountable for their past mistakes or poor decisions, and take responsibility for their actions moving forward, in hopes to possibly return home to their families one day. In turn, this will generate a safer prison system and lower recidivism rates do to the incentivised behavior modification and rehabilitation.

Science shows that a person’s brain doesn’t reach full maturation until between 25-28 years of age. This means that although a person is an adult by societal standards, they are still incapable of making rational decisions or temper emotions in certain situations as a person in their mid 30’s and beyond. As a result, they make an ill advised decision that they end up regretting for the rest of their lives. Add to that, the fact that statistics show that most people ‘Age out’ of criminal behavior in their 30’s – thus proving that people do change!

Now the question is – do we continue to perpetually punish people for making bad choices at a time in their young life, with all the pressures surrounding most of them, based on their economic and societal circumstance? Or do we as humans have compassion and understanding that ‘people make mistakes and poor decisions.’ We all have at some point in time in our lives. Just some are a little more severe than others. And no matter how severe or not, we all want the same thing: To be forgiven!

Pertaining to the bill as it stands, I think that its too restrictive in regards to the behavioral stipulations for eligibility. Staying charge-free for five years is nearly impossible. In a prison with people warehoused in close quarters and everybody’s dealing with their own unfortunate situations. Whether it be the loss of loved ones, missing loved ones, or just not having any outside support at all. Plus tired from being down so long or just starting out, having a hard time adjusting and the end is no where in sight. Couple that with all the different personalities, makes for a very hostile environment where anything can happen. It doesn’t have to be you who initiates conflict or even be at fault. You just might have had to defend yourself and you still will receive an infraction which won’t reflect that you acted in self defense.
Or, a C.O could be having a bad day or issues at home that they bring in here with them and take it out on us. You could be on the receiving end of an infraction as collateral damage. Sounds strange, but it happens more often then you think. Maybe something as small as not having your shirt tucked in or not standing in time for count can effect your eligibility to petition. So five years infraction free is hardly an achievable feat. If passed as it stands, I myself wouldn’t be immediately eligible. I still would have 2 more years to go before I’m eligible.
So with a few amendments, I think this Bill can change the landscape of the justice system in Virginia and make it fair and just for all.

Darius Simmons, Deerfield Correctional Center

Definition of Second Chances

Thank you for allowing me to express my take on a piece of legislation that’s beyond what a person has done wrong in life, but how he or she responded to what they have done. “THAT’S MY DEFINITION OF SECOND CHANCES.”

As I sit back and reflect on how the United States has more people incarcerated than any other country, it leads many people to believe that incarceration is more about politics than the crime or the victims of those that committed those crimes. Since Jan. 1st of 1996, Virginia got tough on crime and came up with one solution, “85% and no parole.” So now I pose this question, is that the real solution? Of course not! That’s because most of the inmate population will be released one day, change or not!!!

It’s about time, it’s long overdue for us Virginians to put in place legislation that focuses on Second chances. Giving individuals the necessary tools to be able to tackle not only what led them to prison, but beyond prison is the REAL SOLUTION. So why not put in place a system that restores good health through therapy and allow the judicial system to evaluate a person after a period of time for an early release, because there are plenty of people in prison that are still being punished for who they used to be, rather than who they become. Enclosing, it’s not a matter of if this piece of Legislation is enough. It’s about getting back to what this country was built on, second chances!!!

Leroy Williams
Deerfield Correctional