A Letter From Jerry James to State Leaders

To The Senators and Delegates,

My name is Jerry L. James. I am a first-time offender who received 73 years with 35 years suspended, which left me with a 38-year sentence. As I sit here at Deerfield Correctional Center, 22 years later, I have done all I can to rehabilitate myself by completing mind-changing programs, as well as getting my G.E.D., plus enrolled myself into college to receive an Associate’s Degree in Biblical Studies.

I also remained charge-free for 17 years of the 22 years I’ve done already. I give all praises to God, who has given me the strength to hold on this long. Not knowing there wasn’t no parole for the new-law prisoners when I came in the system which make it very hard to know you have to do all your time unless you receive a pardon by the Governor. Which we know is like winning the Mega Millions – a slim shot to none.

When the the General Assembly voted and passed the enhanced earned sentence credit bill in 2020, which gives guys like myself a sense of hope for an opportunity to earn more good time to be able to go home a little earlier because we’re only getting 4.5 days a month of good time as I speak. But as we know, Governor Youngkin added a Budget Amendment that replaced the bill -which caused guys like myself to be exempt from getting something that we worked hard to get.

I had to tell my 71-year old father the bad news. He is still recovering from a stroke he had a few years back. I know I did wrong to get in here, but with 10 more years to do, please somebody have some type of compassion and give me a chance and the guys like myself, before our love ones will be no more.

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

Jerry L. James


Hello my name is Leroy Williams, and I’ve been in prison since I was 18, now I’m 44 and I am not the same person I was when I was 18!! Not to make light of what I done to be in prison, but I am being punished for who I use to be, and not who I’ve become. Our current Governor made that crystal clear when he repealed the bill that would have allowed those that made the necessary to better themselves. It’s a challenge, but we must move forward with the same intensity that brought us this far. There’s an understanding that we want to make sure we do the right thing and not play politics with people lives.

Yes, I am very strong due to my faith. But for those that are not, I want to encourage them and believe that God is still working behind the scheme.

Your brother,
Leroy Williams

Speech by Q at the Rally Against Earned Sentence Credit Revocation

Listen as Q speaks at the rally about what it’s like to be incarcerated right now, and what it’s like to do too much time. He also addresses all of us out here and reminds us how much WE can take action and show up as families of the incarcerated. Thank you to Voice for the Voiceless, Humanization Project, Delegate Don Scott and others who were able to show support today. The work isn’t done!

Our editor, Santia, holds an iPhone to the microphone for the public to hear.

Too Much Time: July Prompt

It’s been about a month since Governor Youngkin dastardly used his power to amend the state’s budget and deny thousands of deserved inmates a chance at an earlier start on a new life in the free world…

Advocates have rallied in the name of those incarcerated. Media outlets have been taking notice. The time has come for us who are imprisoned to speak for ourselves… WE have a voice, and we have a platform. Brilliance Behind Bars belongs to us all. Let’s let the world know what goes on behind the walls – the things apathetic politicians deliberately hide from the public eye…

Write an essay, compose a poem, or just drop some quotes describing your personal struggles in the penitentiary for your own rehabilitation, and explain how the denial of justice has affected you and your family. Explain to the public, legislators, advocates, etc. why you deserve a shot at an earlier release date. Remember: the world is really taking notice now. Let your voices be heard!

Do not forget to include your name and any contact information for any readers who may be able to offer you some assistance.

I have more love than you can imagine for each and every one of my brothers and sisters on this side of the struggle. I pray we find the light in these dark times.

Sending love, blessing, strength, and hope,

Too Much Time: A Letter to the VA State Leaders about the Budget Amendment Rollback of Earned Sentence Credits

By Quadaire Patterson

I can say, with utmost certainty, that I have been in prison for TOO LONG. And the longer I stay, the harder it is for me to keep my spirits high, to give my all to the pursuit of ‘better,’ and to truly be the change I’ve become.

Despite the DOC’s egregious lack of true focus on rehabilitation, I know that I have made the most of my 14 years behind bars by leading my own journey to being the best version of myself. Day in and day out, waking up in prison slowly gnaws away at the intensity of that inspiration and stifled MY momentum… but never totally extinguished it.

I plea with Virginia state leaders to save my spirit and others like it, as time in prison can be just as destructive to a person, as it can be in rehabilitating them. It is true, time heals all wounds; but too much time begins to erode even the greatest of monuments.

My story isn’t one you hear often when thinking about the concept of prison – but its more common than you may think. Not once have I ever taken my incarceration, nor my rehabilitation, lightly. I always took the experience as an opportunity to grow and change my life around. From the onset of jail, before reaching prison, I worked tirelessly to build practice in meditation and spiritual strength, and gain purpose behind my life. Not once have I ever denied myself the responsibility of my own actions or felt as if I didn’t deserve to be in here. I chose books instead of card games, I chose to watch news programs instead of entertainment. At times, I even accepted that I wasn’t ready to return to society just yet. I used to say to myself, “even if they came to let me out today, I wouldn’t be ready.”

I’ve faced challenges along the way, as I haven’t always made the right choices. But still, I kept my head above the fray and the thick air of desperation and destitution that fills the penitentiary from wall-to-wall. I can recall great moments of inspiration, where I was more than ready to face the world with new eyes and put forth my newfound perspective toward the mission of making a better tomorrow… these moments began in the year of 2012, 4 years into my 20-year prison sentence.

I have never once sought my rehabilitation with the motive of early release. I’ve undertook every means of my own rehabilitation, purely because I would inevitably be released and finally got serious about my own life. Still, I continue to maintain the vision of a new day of freedom for me and to maintain a version of a future in my heart where I can use my past to help guide others with the guidance I needed as a child. I just figured the leadership finally recognized people like me when they passed the expanded earned sentence credits in 2020.

Maybe that’s why it hurts me so much to hear that people don’t believe I deserve a chance at earning an earlier release date. I’ve put faith in the system – even when it was hard to – and even when it imprisoned me. I sought to understand it, and in return, it has not reciprocated the same sentiment. The system has not sought to understand me as a person; to understand that against the odds of incarceration, I’ve still maintained my hope and faith in society regardless of what it has done to me.

Yes, I had to come to prison to find myself, but I am absolutely sure that I don’t have to STAY in prison to keep it. As a matter of fact, I feel a tiny piece of my spirit gets chipped away every time I hear another person has overdosed, or got into a fight, or stabbed. Every time, I lose a little more faith in the system, another fragment of my vision of a new day…

I know WAS a misguided young man, and in the process of being so, I may have caused harm to some people over a decade ago. I’m not making excuses and not saying that the pain of the people I hurt was not important. What I am saying is, I’m a new person, and I deserve a chance at being proactive with my change and begin to make amends sooner than later. The person I am now will NEVER revert to crime. The person I am now, at 34 years-old, understands his own potential: an understanding that isn’t afforded to a lot of poor, black youth.

I ask state leaders to not disregard my efforts, or others like me with a self-imposed rehabilitation and personal growth, by saying it is unworthy of actual redemption in the form of an earlier release date. When you disregard us, now it is YOU who are working against a greater version of what we are today.

-Q. Patterson, Brilliance Behind Bars Creator


Those who tell themselves they will never be free will never experience true freedom because they will never do what is necessary in order to obtain that freedom.

Freedom is to have a free-dome; it is only gained when you free your mind of all mental restraints. Until those restraints have been loosened from the wavering mind of those who have doubt or a level of uncertainty of what it feels like to be free, they will remain a product of their own thoughts which have held them captive because they have yet to learn the art of self mastery.

Proper preparation prevents poor performance and I am of the belief that if you aren’t ready, get ready, and once you get ready, stay ready. I myself have a very lengthy sentence and have currently been incarcerated for 21 years. The new good time sentence credit will help, but due to my sentence, I will still have double digits left to serve. For years now with the glimpse of hope I have, I’ve prepared myself physically, mentally, and spiritually for that day when it does come. Preparation starts in prison, so don’t wait until the last minute to prepare.

– Antoinne Pitt


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

The Hustle of Fairness and Equality in America; a Perspective of a Presumed ‘Violent’ Offender

By Sincere Born Allah

I’ve been up since 3:30am having full on (out loud) conversations with myself about random topics. They share a common thread; my current standing as an incarcerated man and the Virginia legislators’ weak arguments (and misinformation) regarding overall prison reform (or lack thereof). These conversations I’m having with myself aren’t unlike the many I’ve previously had with myself (and others) regarding this subject. However, this time it was a couple of hours before I realized I was giving a speech and passionately debating “myself” (out loud). I’d like to think that I’m mentally stable yet there are moments like this when I’m not 100% sure of that (is “Mentally Stable” a relative term? like the term “Normal” hmmm). I acknowledge the fact that I’m off a lil bit. To what extent is what I am unaware of and that worries me the most. How far gone am I? How much longer do I have before I mentally enter a point of no return having spent that last 22 years incarcerated?

Anyhow, let me set the tone for you. I really need you to take a moment to envision this: I’m sitting in a cell listening to my second favorite Tupac song, “White Man’s World” (for context please listen to this song on repeat at least 3 times with NO DISTRACTIONS), and there is a verse where he says: ‘Do you love me momma, why they keep on calling me NIGGA / get my weight up with my HATE and pay’em back when I’m BIGGA.’ Then laced throughout the song are excerpts of Minister Farrakhan’s Million Man March Speech (I was at the million man march standing in the crowd listening to that speech October 16, 1995) and Stokely Carmichael. In one excerpt Farrakhan says: (speaking directly to white legislators) “You’re out of touch with REALITY! There are a few of you in a few smoke-filled rooms calling that the mainstream while the masses of the people… white, and black, red, yellow, tan and brown poor and vulnerable are suffering in this nation” Think about that for a moment. What comes to mind when hearing that? The song ends with Farrakhan saying, “The seal in the constitution reflects the thinking of the founding fathers that this nation was to be a nation by white people and for white people.” “Native Americans, Blacks and all other non white people were to be the burden bearers for the “REAL CITIZENS” of this nation.” I was 13 or 14 when I first heard Farrakhan speak in Boston at Prince Hall lodge. I was 15 when I heard him again at the Million Man March and at that time I couldn’t (or didn’t) appreciate the depth at which he spoke directly to me and my condition. And those of us that were able to witness the prophetic greatness of Tupac can agree that he was so far ahead of his time – that most of his music is only now being understood and used at universities as a course of study 25 years after his death.

The first part I want to address is getting my “weight up with my hate and pay’em back when I’m bigga.” I’ve learned that the phrase “getcha weight up lil’ nigga” means more than your physical stature. In life, we are assessed by our ability to think independently. Our intellectual prowess can only be developed and enhanced through problem solving. So, like using weights for our bodies to get bigger, we must challenge our minds in the same way in order to be respected and allowed entrance into certain arenas. Hate is second only to fear as the greatest individual motivator (I’m sure I do not need to give you a history lesson to support that claim). Just for the purpose of this essay, think of the KKK and Hitler as the most recent examples of targeted Hate and Fear. When you’re a gazelle amongst lions your hate for and fear of the lion will still get you eaten. However, the elephant doesn’t worry about the lion. Their physical stature and intellect keep them thriving. My hate was so strong at one point it consumed me. But at the same time it motivated me to figure out how to better position myself against my enemies (those that I have and haven’t identified). I wanted to be a knockout artist and fight like the legends behind these walls. I did that through boxing (check). I wanted to make sure I was never the dumbest person in the room and able to mentally spar with the master builders in any cipher like the great scholar James Baldwin (check). My payback won’t be complete until I’m home and successful in my work (soon check).

Now, there’s the part where Farrakhan speaks to the politicians “a few of you in a few smoke-filled rooms…” those back room closed door secret meetings by the powers that be are commonplace in a system built on secrets and lies in order to perpetuate the original agenda of this nation. For example, we just witnessed Virginia legislators elect a Crime Commission to do a study that came back HALF-ASSED and INCONCLUSIVE (at best). Rather than wait a few more months to gather the necessary supporting facts and empirical evidence, lawmakers in the House and Senate rushed to create a bill for the special general assembly that essentially does NOTHING to truly address the issues of this current system. In fact the bill further marginalizes, dehumanizes and discredits thousands of individuals like myself who have put in the time and done all the work needed to make the strongest case for earning our freedom. This decision was made by a few people in a room playing GOD with what’s left of our lives and negotiating side political deals with “NO” new information available to them. How was this deemed okay to do and by who? The masses continue to suffer because it suits an individual agenda that is not directly affected by our constant suffering.

There is a clear answer to the question: is this the Virginia Dept. of Corrections, or the Virginia Dept. of Human Warehousing? There is no other nation in the world that treats its people like this. Not even Nazis convicted of the most atrocious crimes against humans were forced to serve more than 25 years in prison (there were some sentenced to death). This nation claims that Justice is BLIND, yet amazingly a very specific and targeted group of people are still fighting for justice and equal rights because somehow lady justices’ blind ass can still SMELL MONEY and HEAR when a NIGGER is in her presence. SHE may be blind but these policy makers sure as hell aren’t. They can see just fine. The proof of this is in this nation’s recently exposed history and current policies including Gerrymandering, Redlining, Tough on Crime, War on Drugs, Stop and Frisk, Slave Codes, Three Fifths Compromise, Mass Incarceration, School to Prison Pipeline, Segregation, and Slavery. All things justified, upheld and made possible through this so called justice system. The exact same system we now expect to just suddenly change and start benefiting us or working in our favor. That kind of change will only come by force and that force has been and will continue to be met with a greater more nefarious force. From 1555 (not 1619) until 2020 is 465 years. That is how rooted these systems are. You have to go back another 6,000 years to find the making of the mindset that created these systems (I Love History).

Now lastly Farrakhan says: “The seal in the Constitution represents the thinking of the founding fathers that this was to be a nation by white people and for white people.” 1776 is when this document was written. Black People Everywhere were still being hunted, kidnapped, tortured, openly traded and treated as property not people at that time. In fact, the government in 1787 (I believe), even went as far as to outline that no person of African descent can EVER claim to be a whole human hence the term “Three Fifths of a Man”. And for our Native American Brothers and Sisters we need only to remember the “Trail of Tears”. It took a Revolutionary war, Civil war, 2 World wars, Korean war, Vietnam war and a Civil Rights uprising over the course of 200 years to finally get this nation to acknowledge us as people (flesh and blood human beings). What do you reasonably think it’s gonna take for us to acquire JUSTICE and EQUALITY? My answer is 5 more wars and another 200 years, at the very least.

I laugh at the fact that seemingly every time we make a fuss and cause a lil disturbance (Good Trouble) we get thrown a bone and that bone is seen as a VICTORY…. Smh. Fools, it was YOUR bone in the first damn place!!! It’s just enough to either keep our mouths shut. Remember, to open your mouth again means to lose the bone that’s in it or keep us at odds with each other over who gets the bone instead of staying focused on the oppressor. Malcom X has a few quotes that I’ve proudly applied to my life, one of which is, “Be sure not to confuse Movement with Progress. You can certainly run in place and achieve movement and yet get NOWHERE” another is: “If a man stabs you in the back 9 inches deep then pulls the blade out three inches that doesn’t make him your friend or worthy of your gratitude.” These are timeless quotes, because half a century later, the conditions that made them relevant then still exist right now. Someone should have told the members of the Virginia House and Senate who so willingly accepted that bone and also celebrated the blade coming out 3 inches.

The promise of fairness and equality is the longest and most successful hustle this nation has been running on what it considers to be its inferior population. Hoping that next year, they’ll pull out another three inches of that 9 inch blade is INSANITY! There is no incentive for them to look at this again. These policy makers’ moral compass is guided only by MONEY. We counted on them to have some common sense, common human decency, and to look at the data and make adjustments accordingly. NONE of that happened. Instead they made life altering decisions with NO DATA whatsoever all in the name of MONEY and UNJUSTIFIED FEAR. And for those legislators who stayed SILENT (neutral) rather than take a stance on the RIGHT side of history and use their power to make a real difference , The Great Dr. Martin Luther King has this to say about you, “There is a time when your SILENCE becomes BETRAYAL”.

Now let’s address FEAR with FACTS, LOGIC, REASON, and REALITY.

As it pertains to those convicted of violent crimes, with the exception of an individual clinically assessed and found to have a depraved mindset, it has been proven on every continent in the world that age and length of time served drastically lessens the chances of re-offending (especially for another violent act) . Recidivism even goes as low as 0.1% for an individual that has served at least 20 years and is over 40. Men Lie Women Lie … Numbers Don’t!


  • Prior to the enactment of truth in sentencing (85% no parole) violent crimes statewide and nationwide were already trending down and had dropped 110% (some as much as 150%) and have not wavered in the years since, while ALL other crimes have had drastic increases.
  • Truth in Sentencing 85% No Parole Law was presented and enacted with admitted faulty data (data compiled 5 years earlier and had not been updated by the time states had adopted the system)
  • Hilary Clinton and the President at the time Bill Clinton have both addressed this issue and apologized publicly for their mistake (especially Hillary Clinton for her fear mongering tactic of calling the inner city/urban youth SUPER PREDATORS that needed to be locked up and have the keys thrown away)
  • The federal government financially incentivized states to adopt this policy.
  • The only credit this law has actually been able to claim is the mass increase in prison populations for every state that adopted it and a HUGE staffing and budgeting nightmare in every one of those states as well. Annually Billions of taxpayer dollars nationwide are being funneled into a human warehousing system while schools and youth programs close due to underfunding. Affordable housing is scarce and homelessness is at an all time high.

The politicians are trying to lull us all back to sleep by crying about how hard their jobs are and how change takes time and doesn’t come overnight. Funny how in 1995, when these laws were enacted, there was no call for a commission to do a study that would take a year or two to compile nor did the department of corrections say that it would take 3 years to update their systems. This change did not come in pieces over a 25 year period (it’s been 25 years since Virginia has done ANY Prison reform). This shit came swiftly, sweepingly and immediately! By the time the ink was dry on the bill, Virginia had built 6 new prisons … 4 supermax prisons and 2 private prisons (Red Onion, Wallens Ridge, Sussex 1, Sussex 2, and Lawrenceville) all opened and filled to capacity by 1998. This prison construction boom happened all across America, almost like States were competing to see who could build the most and fill them the fastest . That kind of construction hasn’t been seen in this country since the “Big Dig” in Boston, MA.

I watched how a single incident can get a teenager 11 felonies and sentencing guidelines were thrown out the window. Teens (you’re still a teenager from age 13 to 19) were receiving de facto life sentences (50, 70, even 100+ years 85% NO Parole, NO Good Time) daily. At 17, 18, and 19 years old we were packed into these warehouses like the surplus population we have always been considered by this nation. Entire neighborhoods were turned into ghost towns with every kid missing from them as if abducted by aliens. I soon found out they weren’t missing at all and those weren’t aliens that abducted them they were Police Task Forces and now they were all locked up with no chance of returning until they (we) became useless burdensome old men (IF they make it to geriatric release age and are deemed suitable for release that is).

The generation before us was told that they still had value NO MATTER what their crimes were, and they were given the opportunity to prove themselves worthy and earn their way out of prison. They were told they still had redeemable qualities and if they did everything right while in prison, changed their thoughts and actions to be more positive and productive, then they could be released at an age where they could have a reasonable chance at a quality life and be an asset to society rather than just a long term liability. What makes the lives of my generation LESS worthy of that same opportunity? Our crimes are no different…

January 1995 marked the year that anyone born in 1980 could be subjected to the harshest policing practices and prison sentencing policies since the (old) Jim Crow era (we’re living in the new Jim Crow era right now).

An entire generation was specifically targeted for extinction – my generation. Sounds like a conspiracy theory doesn’t it? Well, ask Oliver North if it’s just a theory. Those military and CIA planes that were used to transport heroin and cocaine into the US were very real and so was his trial. Iran Contra exposed both George Bush and Ronald Reagan for being complicit in these deals. Among others, but Oliver North took the fall for his buddies. (Damn, how soon we forget.)

Those drugs ended up in every ghetto in America, then guns magically appeared all over these same cities as fast as the jobs and federal funding for housing and programs disappeared. Separately these things can somewhat be explained away, however add them together happening all at the same time all over the country and it becomes impossible to deny. I am convinced there is certainly no excuse or justification for a criminal act especially those committed against another person, however in that same breath I am certain there is always a reason for them.

Think for a moment about George Washington, a man celebrated and held in the highest of honor as a Founding Father (his crimes against humanity aside of course, I mean he did have his slaves teeth ripped out of their mouths and fitted for his own mouth when he felt like it, but we will gloss right over his brutal inhumanity for the sake of my point). He was under British rule and law when he committed treason and had he been caught he would have immediately suffered a treasonist’s death by hanging. So it’s safe to say that America does believe that good men like George break bad laws in order to change their circumstances and achieve what they feel is a more suitable outcome.

It’s a fact that crime and poverty are inextricably connected. Take away jobs and opportunities and replace it with drugs and guns and 10 times out of 10 you will get the same outcome ANY TIME, ANYWHERE.

I’m approaching 41 years of age and I’m in my 23rd year of incarceration on a 45 year prison sentence. I’ve made no excuses and took responsibility for my actions. I’m deeply remorseful for the pain that I’ve caused and the unnecessary loss of a life. I did need to and deserved to come to prison for the role I played in my crime committed. However it hasn’t taken me 45 years to correct and improve myself. It actually took less than 20. Although, I had no incentive to do so, because I was told I wouldn’t have a reasonable shot at life before 60. I made these changes on my own because I felt like my debt to society wasn’t to sit here self medicate and engage in a common prison lifestyle. My debt owed first was to the family of the victim, for me to show my remorse and actually change and then it was to society to help others make the same life changes I did. I recalibrated my thought process and then I became hopeful that it wouldn’t be in vane. I have hoped I would be one considered as worthy of a chance to prove my worth and value as a productive member of society long before even the age of 50. Anything beyond 25 years here is a waste of invaluable irreplaceable resources. I’ve improved my human capital and continue to do so with this hope in mind. This year’s General Assembly destroyed that hope and left thousands of men like myself hopeless and helpless.

– Sincere Born Allah #1131459 (Nottoway Correctional Center, Burkville, VA)

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