Restraints

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

Reflect

Thank you for allowing me to express myself, and for the work y’all do.

True change can only come from the person that wants change. We must use this time to reflect on ourselves and take the steps to better ourselves cause if we wait on the DOC to do it, we will be waiting a lifetime. Everyone deserves and needs a second chance, no matter what he or she did. Without it, what does a person have to look forward to?

Our last governor got a second chance to show he isn’t the person in a certain photo, and with that second chance, he showed us the real person he is and who knows how many second chances our new governor has gotten or will get. Second chance legislation is good; no I wouldn’t qualify if it passed right now, but there’s others who will. I got a 35yr sentence and have been in for 25 yrs now and have received 3/100 series charges in that time.

One, I was simply lied on, but as you know, you’re going to get found guilty on what the officer says, and the charges weren’t back to back they were yrs apart. Last one, last yr

The behavioral requirements are to much cause the system is set up for you to fail. If you go 20yrs charge free now, you’re manipulating the system then they trick you up to catch a charge. Things happen in here and some you can ignore, others you can’t. This VADOC isn’t set up to correct or rehabilitate you, cause it offers you nothing to help you in here, or for when you get out. When you do right, they give you no incentive or reward to keep you in the right direction, but when you step outside of their line, they are qiuck to take something from you. They should charge the behavioral requirements, as I don’t think people in vadoc can meet that requirement. At the end of the day, they need to look at who we are now and the things we have done for ourselves to be better citizens in society and to stop judging us from our past. Thank you for your time, and God bless.

– DERRICK EDMONDS

An Earned ‘Second Look’

Right now, as an incarcerated person in Virginia, I do not have a lot of options when it comes to obtaining any form of relief from a lengthy prison sentence – and it’s definitely not based on my own willingness to rehabilitate. For years and years, incarcerated people are housed with little to motivate them into productive and meaningful rehabilitation. We are asked to merely sit quietly and wait until the time is served and there is little emphasis on correcting behaviors. We are asked to maintain employment for a majority of our time, stay charge-free, and it is not until the final years of our sentence, that we are instructed or able to take re-entry programs and the like. Still, there are many of us in here that need that extra bit of motivation, reason, and cause to push us. There are many of us who have taken measures to earn the opportunity for a second look.

This year in Virginia, there is a bill on the table to implement a policy called ‘second look.’ This would allow for the incarcerated population to petition the convicting court for possible resentencing based on who they are today.

Knowing there’s over 30,000 people in the Virginia Department of Corrections’ custody, a petitioner must meet requirements before they can submit. A person who was 25 years of age or younger at time of conviction is required to serve at least 10 years of their sentence, while those over the age of 25 must at least 15 years. The structuring of the age requirement is based on scientific findings concerning full brain development and aging out of crime.

The second, and more controversial element of this bill, is about maintaining a near perfect record for your past 5 years of incarceration. It states in the bill that an incarcerated individual cannot have been found guilty of any major institutional infractions (100 series, e.g. assaulting an officer), and only one minor infraction (200 series, e.g. unauthorized area) within 5 years prior to petitioning. You must also be at GCA (good behavior) level 1 at the time of application. This is the cause of some criminal justice advocates’ concerns. They believe that the behavioral requirements are too strict, unreasonable, and even near impossible to achieve by most prisoners.

My personal thought on the matter is that it is a little shameful for advocates on the outside to assume, that given the opportunity, we, on the inside, could not possibly maintain a charge free status for 5 years – EVEN IF OUR FREEDOM DEPENDED ON IT.

Many of the arguments provided by advocates suggest that corrupt correctional officers and staff will take ample opportunity to excessively charge prisoners, solely to ruin their chance at petitioning. Though their arguments cannot completely be disregarded, I find it rather negligent to attribute that much weight to supervision only. I have experienced COs and staff members who do not always have the best intentions and fall short of standards that should be expected of professionals in charge of human lives. But to the contrary, these individuals are far and few in between. They are probably as common as the overly obnoxious boss, supervisor, co-worker, etc. that you may experience on the outside. Plus, there are many avenues currently in place to address grievances of prisoners who deal with potentially corrupt staff members and officers.

I, myself, understand how hard it is to maintain a perfect behavioral record in prison. Early in my incarceration, I managed to receive numerous charges. Most of which, were not minor infractions. But I also understand that a “second look” law did not exist for me then. There was not much to help focus and motivate a better pattern of behavior. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. After seeing my life heading in an unwanted direction, I had to take charge of my own rehabilitation.

When I first entered the prison system, I didn’t have a high school diploma. Not only have I acquired my GED, I’ve also been working hard to fulfill my college-level education goals. Currently, I’m taking print-based correspondence courses at Ohio University. I’m working to obtain an associate degree in social sciences. I have been mentoring young men for over 10 years, helping them find their own spiritual journeys, tutoring various subjects, and motivating them to seek higher education. For years, I brainstormed this very platform to help showcase the brilliance of people incarcerated and was given an opportunity to bring Brilliance Behind Bars to fruition, going strong for 2 years.

People grow, people change, and people can be rehabilitated, even when the odds are against them, and rules seem petty. I see this bill as an opportunity to push people in the right direction, make for more public safety in and out of the prison walls, and bring us some hope for a brighter future.

Quadaire Patterson has been in prison in Virginia for over 13 years – since 2008. He was 20 years old, caught up with the wrong people at the wrong time and ended up with an extreme 20-year sentence for robbery/use of a firearm; when he didn’t take anything or have a weapon.

On Second Look: Incarceration is just another word for nothing left to lose.

There is a song by Janis Joplin where she says “FREEDOM is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I thought about those lyrics and what they mean, then I changed the word FREEDOM to INCARCERATION and it speaks to me in an entirely different way. Context is everything … looking at someone or something today with the eyes of yesterday is the best way to stagnate, ignore and even deny progress.

In life, we have the opportunity to Forgive and Learn. Forgiveness comes from the heart of those offended as a part of their healing process and the lesson is learned by the offender thru the penalty received. In terms of incarceration, its not the amount of time imposed but what you do with that time to atone… and once that lesson is learned, the cycle is complete.

“Second Look” in lieu of parole or more sensible good time laws for exorbitant sentences allows for a fresh set of eyes to review and determine if the aforementioned cycle is complete. Most of those in opposition to any significant prison reforms are denying not only those incarcerated, but themselves of the invaluable gift of growth, as well as the ability to learn and forgive. Unfortunately, personal agendas and biases (both implicit and explicit) continue to block the path to real justice in Virginia, so this has to be addressed if one is to reasonably expect anything different.

Telling people that they are irredeemable by using this strictly punitive and archaic sentencing structure (85%, no parole), then releasing them into society anyway after 30, 40 or 50 years of incarceration does society no good… Has it stopped crime? NO! Has it been a deterrent of any kind? NO! It has no benefit other than retribution.

Wasting a human resource out of spite should actually be a crime itself. 26 years of this system and what you have are packed, understaffed prisons – and some of which need drastic renovations or need to be closed down altogether and a state budget nightmare for years to come.

The punishment of incarcerating someone now isn’t just about doing the time imposed on you when you’re sentenced…. its doing so much of it that when you’re released to the world, you have no real time left.

Depending on how this Second Look legislation is structured and implemented, that will determine its success and benefit… whether or not it means that every year after a certain point in a persons sentence they will be evaluated (by unbiased and subjective people, not a computer algorithm) on a scale that is evidence based, or if its only for those like myself incarcerated at 18 years old, now 41, and about to embark on my 24th year of a 45-year sentence – still having another 18 years before my mandatory release date?

This legislation also has to be retroactive and all inclusive (for violent and non-violent) in order to be fair and combat some of the damage done by the 85%, no parole laws. Either way, there is no downside to review someone after a certain point in their incarceration, that’s the humane thing to do… its why parole and good time credits exist (not in Virginia).

However, what I don’t want to see is another mechanism in place that feels its sole function is to just keep people in prison regardless of any proven change in mindset and behavior. That seems to be what the republicans believe the parole board is supposed to do… just rubber stamp NO or DENIED on every review. There is a point that you reach while incarcerated when there is nothing left to do but sit idle while life passes you by… you have completed everything available to you and mandated to you by the state, and then reached beyond that on your own to do more for yourself and your family, but then you sit and lose it all because you still have another 20 or 30 years before your release date. Second look legislation can fix that issue and much more.

Let’s be honest for a minute though: if 60% of Virginia’s prison population were white, WE WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION, nor would we still begging to fix what any person with a conscious has agreed are bad laws.

Lastly, I keep hearing people falsely claim that change is a process and then use that as an excuse not to do anything to help the so called “process” … Change is NOT a process, its a RESULT! With regards to people… CHANGE is what happens when an individual or a group of individuals are 100% dissatisfied with their current circumstances or conditions.

I could go through and give historical precedence b.u.t. I don’t see the need because if you’re still reading this, you already know I’m right.

Peace!

– Sincere Born Allah, #1131459, Nottoway Correctional Center

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

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

WHAT’S FREEDOM? Lord Serious and His Thoughts on HB1532

There are two kinds of freedom in this world. Actual freedom and nominal freedom. Actual freedom consists of all of the rights, duties, responsibilities, rewards and burdens that come along with being a free people. Nominal freedom consist of granted privileges that can be taken away. Actual freedom is expressed by the will of the people and their God-given right to exercise self determination as a people. Nominal freedom is expressed in statutory laws that prohibit those who are actually free from discriminating against those who are only nominally free. Those who are actually free understand that freedom cannot be granted by any man made law because all men are actually born free. However, those who are nominally free are free in name only. Society tells them they have been granted their freedom and they believe this to be true simply because they have been given more privileges.

The nominally free voluntarily hand over their will power to those who are actually free. This is due to their miseducation on what freedom really is.

Free people have their own land. Free people form their own governments. Free people build their own school systems and teach their own children. Free people grow their own food to feed themselves, and what they cannot grow on their own land they will trade with another nation of free people to get the things they need. Yes, free people are free to make trade agreements with other nations of the world. But the nominally free are not permitted to do any of these things.

For the nominally free, when they purchase land they must pay property tax to those who really own the land. The nominally free do not form their own government, instead they rely on the government of their enslavers to protect them. The nominally free think they have achieved a level of success if they can send their children to one of their enslavers most prestigious schools. The nominally free are dependent upon their enslavers government assistance to provide them with food and shelter. And the nominally free are so brainwashed that the idea of finding a foreign connect and establishing a direct line of trade for anything other than drugs, would be ungrateful to the middle man who is their enslaver. He’s done such a terrific job of taking care of them, that it almost seems unfair to cut him out of the deal.

I’m tired of being only nominally free. Nothing less than actual freedom will satisfy me now. However, this kind of freedom cannot be gained as an individual. It must be achieved collectively by a group of people who share a determined idea. I am writing this hoping to connect with more people like me so that we may put our heads together and devise a plan of action to succeed in such an undertaking.

Now, I will briefly express my thoughts on the Virginia General Assembly’s decision to Amend HB 1532. In it’s original form this proposed House Bill would have been the most impactful prison reform in Virginia since the abolition of parole in 1995. The original version permitted those who are incarcerated in state prison to earn up to 30 days good time credit for every 30 days served. It would be retroactively applied to both violent and nonviolent felons. This would effectively reduced a state prisoners time potentially by 50%. To meet this criteria the prisoner would have to remain charge free and enroll in educational programs, vocational programs, and other rehabilitative programs such as Anger Management, Substance Abuse, etc. I actually supported the passage of this bill over the one that would repeal the abolition of parole. My reason is HB 1532 in its original form permits all prisoners with two priceless things: it would give us a chance to redeem ourselves; and second, it would also allow us to control our own destiny. However, the amended version of HB 1532 was not all inclusive. This version would only offer this earned good time credit to nonviolent offenders.

Obviously, members of the Virginia House of delegates are of the opinion that Virginia’s violent felons do not deserve an opportunity for redemption. This is extremely hard to swallow, especially after watching reports on the news showing U.S. officials negotiating peace and signing agreements with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Do you mean to tell me that America is ready to forgive the terrorist organization responsible for the most violent terrorist attack committed on American soil (911), but America is unwilling to forgive the violent felon in Virginia? Do we live in a nation that is accepting of a double standard that grants reprieve to the terrorists responsible for murdering thousands in cold blood, but it demands retribution from the violent criminal who hurt far less people? This is just another example of governmental mismanagement and American hypocrisy. When viewed through this lens, I challenge any of Virginia’s state legislatures to defend this ridiculous policy. But I see through the deceptive wording of this bill’s race-neutral language, and will expose it for the discriminatory political farce that it really is. The problem with HB 1532 in its original version, is that it benefits too many Black and Brown men. The amended version is designed to offer relief to those who fell victim to the “opioid crisis” otherwise known as White people. The individual mental, physical or spiritual freedom of members of the minority in this country, can guarantee no long term security for that individual. Our only hope to achieving actual freedom, real freedom… freedom from racism and discrimination will only be achieved when we begin fighting for the freedom of all Black souls as if they were our own.

– 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.

The Battle is Within, by Brandon C. L. Hope

Greetings to the readers, my name is Brandon C.L. Hope. I am 19 years of age. I am incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Facility in Virginia. I have been incarcerated since the age of 14. Through the process that the judicial system has put me through, I have become enlightened to many beautiful things of this country that we live in, but I have also been enlightened to many detrimental issues.

Right now, I would like to speak to the topic of “What’s free?”

Despite my obvious lack of freedom, and despite all the complaints that could be brought to society’s attention, that is not the aspect of free that I would like to indulge in at this particular time.

The lack of freedom that I would like to bring attention to, is that of not the oppressed, but that of the oppressor. Yes, the oppressed obviously lack freedom, but freedom is not just physical. There is also a mental and spiritual aspect to freedom. Although we, the oppressed, often view the oppressors as powerful and free, that is not truth at all. The truth is that the mindset of oppression has enslaved humanity.

Often times, the oppressor only oppresses because of demons and struggles they battle within their personal life. So, the simple fact is, that the battle for freedom is not the oppressed against the oppressor, nor the oppressor against the oppressed… the battle is within. The fight is humanity against physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional slavery. Unity is key.

Thank you for your time…

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

What’s Free?: Writing Prompt For the Incarcerated

Following the ‘What’s Free‘ essay exploring freedom, we’d like to invite the incarcerated community to explore their own definitions of freedom.

“The 2020 Virginia General Assembly has ended….and the outcome has dejected many of incarcerated peoples who were seeking some relief from extensive captivities…

The biggest hope was HB 1532, a bill that was set to change the world of Virginia men and women circulating the VADOC system, adding more good time than the current 15%. A lot of the incarcerated population and our caring families set their hearts on a comprehensive plan that would grant earning captive citizens some relief from their imprisonment. It also had a decent turnout of the public in support. To the disappointment of many, the bill was continued to 2021 due to the fact that the patron, Delegate Scott hoped it could to be more inclusive next year.

The fact of the matter is: the current good time mechanisms set in place to ‘help encourage’ Virginia’s incarcerated peoples, continue to brand Virginia as a state more in favor of human warehousing, than rehabilitating its’ citizens most in need of the system’s help… and not the system’s wrath.

But let’s imagine the alternative future… if Virginia’s HB1532 had passed…

What then? The doors open up for few faster than most. “Free” to roam as they please – but all are still bounded by tremendous amounts of suspended sentences looming overhead, stigmas, outdated legislation needlessly restricting ‘ex-felon’s’ career choices, and restrictions of rights that keep reentering citizens from being able to fully partake in the processes that establish citizens as functional participants in society. Not to mention, the lapse in life development due to lengthy imprisonment…

It begs the question: “What’s free?”

We are incarcerated, but we don’t have to be imprisoned. Freedom is initially a state of mind. One must be free in mind first in order to obtain true, substantial freedom, physically. For those who wish to change their trajectory and stake in life, they first must be free to do so. Though they control the cell doors and gates, they do not control your mind.

What do we do to obtain true freedom? Free in mind, free physically, and free financially. Freedom will not be willfully be given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed (Martin Luther King Jr.). What plans do we have to obtain, secure, and maintain our freedom?

Write an essay defining for the readers your definition of freedom. If you would like, describe a plan following your release for obtaining, securing, and maintaining your form of freedom.

Don’t forget to include what you want readers to know about you…”

– 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. 🙂

‘What’s Free?’ Introduction

In the state of Virginia this year, there was a justice reform bill that drew the attention of every eye within the incarcerated community (this community includes family members of incarcerated people.)

HB 1532 was a bill that was set to change the world of Virginia men and women circulating the VADOC system. The bill was set to upgrade an already in-use system of earning “good time,” which in its current state allows inmates with a flawless conduct record to earn up to 15% off of their sentence. For example, an inmate can be given a sentence of 20 years. If they remain flawless in conduct for an entire 17 years, they would find themselves released. No real incentive placed on unrealistic standards – disparaging and illusionary. Under the introduced bill, if an inmate maintained flawless conduct (and mind you, this is no easy task by far), they would receive up to 50% (give or take 5 years) of their time reduced. Hence, tangible incentives to encourage good behavior and rehabilitation… giving some realism to the standard put forth…

The bill eventually – after several committees mulled over it – applied amendments relegating its effectiveness to non-violent offenders (which make up a very small portion of the ones who need it), and pushed its date of effectiveness back to 2021. The patron, Delegate Scott, elected out of Portsmouth, has opted to push the bill in hopes of finalizing a more inclusive clause…

I had predicted for a time before the conclusion of Virginia’s 2020 election season, that the House wouldn’t just ‘flip the jailhouse over’ and empty convicted criminals into the streets. Irresponsible, along side political suicide. I know in these confusing times, it’s unclear whether they go hand and hand anymore.

The idea of being released early was met by the majority of my community with joy. I did not share in the same elations as my community members. I took in that idea with much needed perspective. Knowing that since I came into the final stretch of my sentence, it’s all been about planning. Planning not only to be released – no, that’s not even a fraction of the struggle for me or most in here – and not only to survive; but to thrive in a world that’s unfamiliar. The thought of early release becomes synonymous with thoughts of being unprepared… and the question… what is free?

I started with the definition of release – to be free from restraint, confinement, or servitude…

How many of us questioned freedom outside of being physically imprisoned? A lot of the thinkers inside have attacked the concept of freedom philosophical. But I don’t believe the core of freedom resides solely at the footstep of the mental. I warn against my fellow incarcerated people to disregard what we have already blatantly ignored. The station of the law fails to return a standard form of freedom to those who have been convicted of a crime, resulting in a virtual life sentence.

‘Ex-felons’ are subject to restrictions that accompany them long after their prescribed sentence. nullifying a lot of any possible knowledge they may have acquired over their decade long stints. For example, many of us incarcerated were oblivious to legal process, being that a lot of us didn’t make it to government courses. Nor were many of us properly introduced to ideas or proper outlets to help us define ourselves to ourselves, outside of the deplorable environments which we were raised and ventured.

I plan to help change that by bringing awareness to the political obstacles that impede an incarcerated person reacclimating into society.

Together, we can help better restore the standard of freedom amongst ALL members of society…

– Quadaire Patterson, VADOC #1392272, From Virginia Beach, VA

Editor’s Note: In March, we will be approaching the topic of freedom, amongst those imprisoned. For more, visit: ‘What’s Free?’ To read the prompt shared with those who are writing, check out this post. Thank you as always, for your support.