“The Capitol is Being Stormed!” -Q.Patterson

Brilliance’s annual ode to black history has me checking the archives again for a bit of Hov. We are two years post wake of the January 6th Riot, and Jay Z’s take on the event still strikes every part of me that remains utterly disgusted with what took place that day…

“You let these crack-ahs storm ya capitol and put they feet up on ya desk/ and you talking tough to me? I lost all my lil respect.”- Jay-Z

“What It Feels Like” is the title of the track Jay featured on with the late great Nipsey Hussle. Here is where Jay felt the need to address the government and there handling of the January 6th riot compared to how the country continues to treat its black citizens with blatant injustice, violence, and death.

Some could easily take this statement as anti-government, but I see it as a patriot’s expression of great disappointment in it’s country. Most of America and the rest of the world witnessed America under siege.

Most cannot disregard, though they won’t to be forthcoming enough to admit it, the reality that if the insurrectionists had been predominantly of another race, the classification of a riot would have had to take a backseat to what would have been a race massacre… Now the problem isn’t with the potential of a massacre actually happening, but the fact that race holds such a stranglehold on our country’s mind. Race holds such a stranglehold on the minds of Black Americans.

As a Black American Man, I feel as if I could see it unfolding right before my eyes– minorities being violently subdued and put to death on the spot for having the sheer audacity to storm the capitol of the united states. Heinous, but sadly, it is something black people actually fear would have happened.

Jay-Z raises a voice in defiance of such fears, while pointing out the unfair treatment that continues to eat away at the integrity of this country. Jay uses his immense platform to rally the Black populace to demand the respect of its government.

I, for one, feel that Black Americans do not do enough to hold the government accountable. Jay looks to lead that way for others who may feel a little dejected by January 6th, but he doesn’t invoke despair or an increased awareness of white supremacy. He ask for anger and assertiveness. He wants Black Americans to know that they are worthy of just as much respect as any other race in America…

I agree.

-Q. Patterson

The Loudest Voice is Our Vote

While sitting in the Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in longhand his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Within this letter, he stated how he couldn’t sit idly by in Atlanta, his home state, and not be concerned about what was happening in Birmingham. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

In my 23 years of incarceration, I live with the direct result of an injustices I created. This injustice is now effecting me and many others and that injustice is: “NOT VOTING.”

In November of 1994, my late father-in-law warned me of not voting. It was during this time that Mr. George Allen was campaigning for governor. His campaign was fueled by the ‘tough on crime’ mantra, with the abolishing of parole as the prize for electing him as governor. I never paid much attention. And to be honest I really didn’t care. Never in a million years did I think that abolishing parole would become like a modern day genocide.

I know that crime must be dealt with, and we all want a safe society. However, many make mistakes, are remorseful and seek rehabilitation to become a better person.

Now in 2023, I find myself facing a very lengthy prison sentence, without the possibility of parole. During these past 20 years, I have met many individuals, some guilty, and a few not guilty. I’ve also met many who, through the rehabilitative process are better and different people today. But the majority of us continue to find ourselves at the mercy of the governor to one day enjoy the freedom that we took for granted and forfeited.

I didn’t vote in 1994, the following year (1995), he fulfilled his promise and abolished parole in Virginia. I’m living in the results of not voting. Many think that my one vote doesn’t matter, just think in a small town, someone won a school board seat winning 3 to 2. Voting matters from our local elections to the highest elections. Voting is actually your voice!!

I lost my right to vote; now, I try to inspire others to vote. I speak to inmates often telling them to encourage their family to vote. Yes, we’ve lost our rights to vote. But think if each of the 37,000 plus inmates in Virginia would inspire 10 people to vote, that would be would be 370,000 votes cast. Yes, it would be in different districts, but I promise you this would make a difference.

So inspire your family and friends to vote. When they ask if they can help, say yes, Vote!! Also tell them to get in touch with their elected officials, from their local representative (senate and delegate) to your national (senate and delegate) prior to elections. If these elected officials will not return your email, letter, or call, then thats a blatant example of them not EARNING your vote.

It’s time that they realize that our votes must not be taken for granted but must be earned.
Let them know what issues effect you and your community. These elected officials are there because of you and for you.

It’s time that we stop being “Democrats, Independent or Republican.” We are humans with a voice, and the loudest voice is our VOTE. It’s time that they stop taking us for granted. Many have gone before us before us, oftentimes being jailed and treated harshly for wanting to vote. We no longer have to count the “jelly beans” in jar. We just have to register. Pass on the importance of voting on to your kids.

To my fellow ex offenders, vote for us! Make getting your rights restored a priority. Speak out for change.
Its time that we stop giving away what many others earned through their blood, sweat, tears and some death.

Many died for us to have the right to vote, don’t give it away, because this injustice is a threat to justice everywhere.

Samuel E Harris #1026738
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Suffolk, Virginia

(Sam) a successful car salesman in the Tidewater Area who suffered an accident while in service to his country and later diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but later denied treatment due to bureaucratic red-tape, caused him to self-medicate and lead to his incarceration for robbery with a 220 year sentence, with 60 to serve. In spite of his situation of incarceration, he has used the last 23 years to rehabilitate and become the devout man of God he is, that has served others through the positions and platforms he’s held within prison. He’s also co-authored several books :”Beyond The Shackles” and ” Speaking Out for Change” as well as authoring his own book ” A Double Minded Man” soon to be released. He can be contacted via US mail or email @ JPay.com Samuel E Harris #1026738

It Would Forever Unfit Him To Be a Slave

“….A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” he said, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontent and unhappy.” – (The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas)

Within the above quote, Frederick Douglas recounts the moment his slave master admonished his wife for teaching him (Frederick Douglas) the alphabet. According to Frederick Douglas, his enslaver was fearful that an education would make him unfit to be a slave. After witnessing this exchange Douglas was certain that the words his master spoke were true. He now understood that Whites greatest power over Blacks was their ability to keep them blinded through their ignorance. From this moment on, Douglas became obsessed with learning to read and write. But since his mistress now forbade him to learn, Douglas had to devise clever ways to get around the social barriers that made it unlawful for him to learn.

This quote is relevant today, because we now live in an era where the White power structure once again has erected new barriers that prohibit Black children from learning. Groups like Moms For Liberty have lobbied for, and Republican leaders like Florida’s Governor Desantis, have passed laws outlawing Critical Race Theory and banning books by Black authors that address race issues in America. The deprivation of a quality education for Black children remains a prominent agenda of White supremacy in America.

If Blacks living in America today hope to overcome the education barriers of our era, then we must adopt the resolve of Frederick Douglas. We must adopt the mentality that any where we are at can be transformed into a classroom and we must use every conceivable opportunity and resource at our disposal to educate ourselves and our children. As a race, we cannot allow our ability to learn to be limited by our group’s inability to receive a quality education inside of the White power structures public schoolhouse.

I once heard a story about this ancient philosopher. It is said one day one of his students came to him requesting additional education. The philosopher looked as his pupil and said, “You want to know what else I have to teach you?” The pupil replied, “Yes!” The philosopher told his pupil, “Follow me.” The two men walked to the coastline and the philosopher enter the water where it was waste deep and gestured for his pupil to follow. When they both were submerged waste deep in the water the philosopher said, “Now I will show you what else I have to teach you.” The philosopher grabs his pupil’s head and pushes it down into the water. The two struggle as the philosopher continues to hold the pupil’s head beneath the water. Finally, the philosopher relents and the pupil comes up from the water gasping for breath. The philosopher looks at him and says, “This is what I have to teach you. You should want knowledge the same way you wanted air.”

Ensuring that Black children in America are receiving a quality education is something that we have taken for granted. But when we are deprived of it, or it under threat to be taken away. We quickly realize just how important it is to our overall survival as a race of people. This should naturally produce resistance within us and create a power struggle where we fight now begin the fight for power, we now understand why it important for us alone to control our own education the same way the drowning man understands why he needs to fight for control over his right to breathe independently.

Lord Serious Hakim Allah
#1404741

Lord Serious is an author, artist, activist, blogger, and representative of the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Director of Umoja Nation. His latest children book “Squirrels, Beavers, And Everyone Else” is scheduled to be released in March as an eBook on LuLu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most major distributors where ebooks are sold. Work Release (The Mixtape), Vol. 1 is available on his social media pages @ Lord Serious Speaks. Lord Serious is the co-author of the “10 TOES DOWN” drug rehabilitation program and interactive facilitator of this program and the “My Next Step” program at Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

Many Small Particles

First of all thank you guys for giving my thoughts a voice box!! All too often, thoughts and ideas, dreams, and/or aspirations are severed due to the inability of us with them to have an outlet or audience to express them to!!! So thank you!!!

My quote has a small background in that I’ve currently been incarcerated for 27 years straight and counting!! And in 2000, while in longterm segregation at Red Onion State Prison of which I did 3 years 10 months and 17 days straight of “HOLE” time, I was studying Marcus Garvey, (my personal idol) and in his book he said: “We are but small particles, and it takes many small particles to make up a unit, and many more units to make up a WHOLE!!!”

Meaning, we are but parts and pieces that has to be brought together to make up a whole, and even when brought together, we still have to be adhesive enough to actually grow and bond in order for it/us to work!!! We as a people always find ourselves looking at what we don’t have in common and how different we are and we use that as our guides to discredit or to reject others instead of focusing in on what we want to achieve and how our different ideas and methods or approaches can be of a greater benefit!!! We all too often say the same thing but say it different!!! We can be so much more powerful, we can be so much more effective if we allow our differences to be the magnetic force that pulls us together, instead of being the thing that drives us apart!!!

The American Mafia did more with less! They made billions of dollars with far less people, than say for instance these modern day gangs whose numbers are in the 100,000 whilst collectively they don’t have a million dollars!!! The economic freedoms and opportunities that are ever present today literally have paved roads to success should we take the proper steps!!! But with ignorance, unbalanced preconceived notions we trip ourselves up and those that can or are in a position to help aren’t even given a chance when we snatch the rug from under foot “just because” all too often, we let what separates us guide us and when wonder why we can’t progress!!! We are all survivalists, but we can stand a better chance to NOT only survive but succeed in any endeavor should we look to each other and look at each other as supports rather than adversarial pieces that hinder us.

We can be as different as we naturally are but have the same common goals, objectives, methods, etc… without ever having to sacrifice who and what we are! People with shared ideas/dreams have a higher probability to succeed working with others rather than going at it alone!! Fighting for freedom which a lot of guys imprisoned typically do realize pretty quickly that outside of placing oneself in the vicinity of a crime that fighting for freedom with poor representation does NOT hold well!!! So why do we represent ourselves so poorly????

We sit back and allow others (strangers even) to represent US based off of whatever information/lies/disillusionment that we feed them instead of caring enough to educate ourselves to a point where we stand up and fight for ourselves!!! Every day we wake up to is another unique opportunity to do better than the day before, it can be a day to learn more than the day before, but more than anything everyday we wake up we should always challenge ourselves to do more than the day before!!!!

Most people find weakness in working together, or feel weakened by it!!! It sounds crazy but its the raw truth!!!! When I read the quote from Marcus Garvey, I realized that alone I am small and almost insignificant, but put with the rest of Hashems’ (God’s) creation I become significant and relevant which carries over to those around me and to those who share in my plight, to those who share in my pain,I implore you to now share in my effort!!!

Abraham didn’t know that through His progression that He would advance from Abram and Moses asked God, “Why me for I am slow of speech?” Hashem (God) said, “Go!!! I will be your words!!” We are living in our predestined paths all of which God has chosen specifically for us!!! But we must know that the world spins whether we witness it or not and its our egos and self doubt that holds us back and our circumstances derive from OUR thoughts!!!

In order to rise, we must stand!!! Alone we are small and together we are strong it takes us all and if my insecurities make it hard for me to stand up, will you please give me a hand or boost????!!! Your helping hand and your time and your ears are what gives me the confidence to face myself and the inner changes that I need to make to rise above my past and current circumstances to be lifted to a higher place and peace of mind!!!! Let the God in me commune with the God in you!!! That simple truth can break down so many barriers, walls, prejudices, etc!!!

It takes many units to make up a whole, which means it takes us all!

Yours Truly,
Andrew Suspense, B.K.A. Droopy
#1127539
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Less Than 100 Years from a Desegregated America

by Andrew Suspense


Do I believe it is possible to overcome hundreds of years of slave trade mentality in America in our lifetime?

Obviously, NO!!! Whilst being objective! The Slave Trade mentality took a few cruel ideas that turned in 100’s of years and generations to first build, then to maintain such harsh judgements, treatment, and to reclassify a people because of the color of their skin – that is not unprecedented. But the systematic way that it grew and kept strong is unprecedented, largely because it still exists today! However, most laws as they are written to date are on the one hand antiqued… they were written to White America because when the laws were put on the books, America was still segregated and basic color segregation kept crimes and criminals to pockets of areas which also largely speaking crimes weren’t committed as freely and as prevalent as they are now! The systematic, and subliminal indoctrination of racism that maintained for hundreds of years, won’t be eradicated in a few decades when racism has now evolved and isn’t expressed as openly and as commonly as it once was. We aren’t even 100 years removed from a desegregated America!!!

As far as crimes being addressed — The most severely and most commonly committed crime in Virginia is robbery! Which is the one crime that has the highest conviction rate of any crime. It’s also committed mostly by minorities, and it is sentenced more harshly than any other!!! Here is a hard fact and I DON’T make mention of it as a way to demean or to mean that one crime is better or worse than the other, but the fact that it holds true is worth speaking on! If a guy raped a woman at knife or gun point, he will get less time than if he took a purse or wallet from the same woman at knife or gunpoint. So her being victimized on the severity scale her purse holds more value than her body/womanhood!!!
And the repeat offenders who victimize women are said that they are sick and need help!!! But the guy who took her money or watch is a hardened criminal who needs to be taken out of society for decades, with no help or rehabilitation. No educational opportunities to have a chance at a job or having skill sets to help ensure ones chances at being a productive citizen! And there could be 100 robberies and all 100 of them are committed 100% different, but no matter the crime Virginia doesn’t allow judges to sentence each according to each set of facts! Not to mention the representation that all too often falls below an adequate level!

“The prison system can be used/utilized by creating things like,” Convicted Leadership Academy’s!!! ” Prison is devoid of so many USEFUL things, whist spilling over in abundance with ignorance and stagnation!
But when we convicted felons step up and grab some of our at risk youth, then we, in that failure to act ,are responsible for forfeited futures! Our painful experiences need to be fuel or boost we need to get up and over our self created walls of doubt, and be the courage to step into a better me. WE have to talk to, we have to guide, we have to beg our youths, we have to yell at and out to OUR youths. Prisoners can talk to those who are seemingly headed to. We are the instruments and vehicles for rehabilitation for OUR youths!

It would be something like the girls and boys club but strictly with convicted felons mainly those currently serving.
Mass incarceration isn’t necessarily racially motivated, simply because America was still segregated which would have had tremendous impacts on volumes of crimes and geographically, so the penal statutes weren’t cratered to minorities even though it seems as if it was and is!? Oddly enough. But enough about what isn’t, or what we don’t have. Let’s just be the change and get it done, by getting it or any other idea going!

Andrew Suspense
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Re-Slaving America (Make America Great Again!?)

It’s a horrible sign that the country of America might actually be going backwards– towards the wrong direction… was this what was meant by the 2016 dog whistle calls to ” Make America Great Again”…?

Five states, here in America, are putting a rather interesting bill on their ballots this midterm election season… Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oregon, and Vermont are all trying to reintroduce “forced labor” back into the American penal system. This situation makes this month’s Brilliance writing prompt somewhat prophetic…

“Am I incarcerated for profit?” (Brilliance writing prompt for October 2022) detailed the very gruesome history of the many insidious ways the powers of this country have exploited the American justice system and configured it into a racist pitfall (a “black hole”). All of this, in an effort to re-enslave black people, subjugate American minorities, and further the seemingly impenetrable grip racism has on this country…

Maybe the powers are going to decided to use the cover of a poor post-covid economy to bolster the need for slavery in prisons? They’ve already put forth the footwork for the past four years and successfully weaponized a fringe base of poor, white people, armed and even ready to storm the capital — maybe in hopes of taking the country “back” to “make it great again?” It is easy to accept the state of the economy as broken or unfit by those privileged but in poverty. But to those who have aligned such privilege with financial success and are now in want more, pointing them in the directions of the prison system as a means for their salvation is a welcomed fix.

Maybe the minimal headway made on social justice reforms leaves most with an unmerited sense of self satisfaction? So much that they aren’t even the least dissuaded to publicly disregard the mental wellness of Black Americans by resurrecting their most critical of traumas.

I hate that the connotation of capitalism can be justifiably understood to mean: at times we sacrifice long term mental anguish in hopes of short term monetary gains. and in a democracy like ours, this expense tends to always fall on the minority.

Why is forced labor in prisons an issue of race?

Well regardless of what our leaders are touting as true social justice reforms, the dramatic disparities in incarceration rates are still very well alive and thriving. the emphasis on racial justice, these past two years, has barely put a scratch on the issue of unfair treatment between minorities and the penal system. Black Americans still greatly outpace white ones in America’s prison population. And as described in the latest Brilliance prompt, the current state we are foregoing in this country concerning Black Americans and prison was deliberate in its design.

Given the recent events taking place within the Alabama prison system– where the incarcerated there are demonstrating a work stoppage in protest of inhumane living conditions and unfair treatment by the Alabama justice system, the fact that Alabama is amongst the states considering forced labor is nothing other than a symbol of its stern unwillingness to consider to the pleas of its prisoners. A bold statement that power is in no need of a heart nor soul. It only needs lives to stand over…

My hopes are that these aversive proposals to enslave prisoners do not go further than just racist propaganda, designed to motivate alt-right fringe voters to the polls.

If this horrible, racist. vision does manage to make it to fruition, my hope then is that the human soul that will forever fight for equality and justice, beats loudly throughout all the hearts of the oppressed and imprisoned, and that of all of their allies, and stands in opposition of such travesty…

Continue to fight for righteousness, because it is not freely given. We are all the children of freedom and it is our birthright to be free…

Love, peace, and power,

Q. Patterson

The Justice System’s Antiquated

The fact that the United States still operates under post civil war era criminal justice standards is plain wrong! Governments need frameworks to establish beginnings. Not saying the way of our founder’s frameworks were the right path to take, but frameworks are needed to build period. Once the initial building is over certain things need to change (amended) or be removed to better society or just to be morally sound. Again, in this essay’s case, the justice system’s correctional approach is antiquaaaaaaaaaadaaaaaaaaaaated in our modern society, which many people have fought and died so hard to change.

One of the essay questions that i personally would like to elaborate on is question #3: How can the prison system be use to better our community?

Well, my personal opinion is that I feel the number of correctional facilities should be reduced and the closed facilities should be remodeled into immigrant/disaster relief facilities where people in need have shelter, clean water, laundry, dinning areas and grounds for medical attention. The federal government could easily funnel some of it’s money used to incarcerate the population to aide others in more immediate need. While at the same time, create jobs for the economy that current inmates could be employed that would better the economy by being paid more, therefore, taxed more. This was one of the ides I had on this year’s fall essay. Thank you for the time that you took to read this and I hope that it may take root.

Shout out to the crew behind Brilliancebehindbars.com.
Keep up the work!

J. Reinard, LVCC

Am I Imprisoned for Profit?

Editor’s Note: Quadaire has been on a long lockdown for the past few weeks, and spent some time researching the deep roots of mass incarceration. He wanted to share the facts he learned and engage the incarcerated population in Virginia.

Since its conception, America has benefit from free labor and the industry of slavery. Slavery has long been abolished, but the clause of ‘supporting it in cases of punishment for a crime’ has been continuously exploited by corporations and politicians. This has lead to the modern day social crisis of mass incarceration and the lucrative enterprise of the prion industrial complex.

Post-civil war, disgruntled Southern lawmakers sought to evade the parameters laid out by the Reconstruction Amendments (Amendments XIII, XIV, and XV). They used the exception marked out in the 13th amendment that legalized slavery in case of punishment for a crime as the basis for achieving their goal. Incarcerating former slaves disqualified their newfound citizenship, nullified their voting rights, and returned them to chains and involuntary servitude. These Southern lawmakers legislated numerous laws and policies such as “Race Codes,” “Black Codes” and many more targeting former slaves for incarceration. White Southerners effectively weaponized the law to enlist America’s Criminal Justice System as a device to perpetuate slavery under other names.

One of these reimagined forms of slavery mirrored a pre-civil war program used in Louisiana, known as “convict leasing.” Incarcerated prisoners were leased to private companies and plantations as laborers. Ironically, these programs were often many more times dangerous than slavery conditions prior. Private companies held no direct investments when it came to their leased laborers. Unlike former slave owners who stood to lose money if the slaves were to get horribly sick or die, private companies with leased convicts were less dissuaded to put them in very unsafe and hostile environments. Convicts were more harshly abused, and in many cases, company task masters would drive them to their deaths. Since the convict leasing program was facilitated through contracts between the prison and the employer, when a laborer died, the prison would simply replace them to meet their contractural obligations and business resumed as usual.

Convict leasing took numerous lives before it was outlawed. Eventually, the program was replaced by ‘correctional enterprises’ — state-owned companies that used prisoner’s forced labor. Correctional enterprises used prisoner labor to manufacture a number of products ranging from eye glasses, shoes, and state license plates. Correctional enterprises are still widely used today. While they gross multi-million dollars a year, their workers, incarcerated peoples, average to earn about $1 per day to take care of themselves and in many cases, their families.

The prison industrial complex has thus evolved. Today, the highest grossing business fueled by the incarceration of Americans is that of the private prison sector. Private prison corporations gross multi-billion dollars a year. The business arrangement set between these corporations who provide incarceration services to the governmental agencies that employ them is a simple one: Incarcerated service providers supply bed space to state and federal agencies and must meet a quote of occupants in order to satisfy their contracted obligations. The most sinister part of this dynamic is the corporations that provide private prisons are publicly traded on the stock market. Thus, anyone and everyone, even law enforcement officers can profit from an increase in the incarceration rate.

One more interesting concept to identify in the scheme of prison for profit is a little more subtle than others. In 1994, 10 years after the first installation of a private prison, the Clinton Administration enacted the Crime Act. This piece of legislation awarded incentives to the states who get more severe on crime. The Crime Act inadvertently encouraged systemic racism with monetary gain and further the profit-for-prison dynamic.

In a perfect world, we can see the logic in society profiting from anti-social acts such as crime. But in America, our racist past infects our criminal justice system to its core. Post-Civil War and Jim Crow politicians have taken advantage of that notion from the onset of the Emancipation Proclamation. Segregationist politicians worked hard to frame the tactics of the civil rights movement as ‘crime running rapid in the streets’ and spawned “tough-on-crime” politics that still serve as the breeding ground for dog whistle politics today. (as defined in Rethinking Incarceration, as racial legislation ensconced within coded rhetoric about the common good)

Never forget that the American justice system is built on principles of the slave trade, monetary gain at the cost of human lives. Everything from the low cost, low quality food being served in prison mess halls, the highly marked up nearly expired food products being pushed through commissary, excessive price tags on essentially free services such as emails, all combined with state-sponsored monetary incentives for persecuting felony charges, keeping an ample incarceration rate, and cutting corners on a bare essentials are all aimed at profiting of human lives…

All of this takes place under the guise of sound economical principles, public safety, and justice for victims, but just as slavery was regarded as a noble conquest in the eyes of many Americans, profiting from the misfortune of already poor, disparaged people is nothing more than vile, life-costing capitalism.

Quadaire Patterson

Thought Starter Questions for the Incarcerated:

Write your own essay, poem, or submit art relative to this topic. Do not forget to include your name and any contact information for any readers who may be able to offer you some assistance.

  1. Do you believe it is possible to overcome hundreds of years of slave trade mentality in America and your lifetime?
  2. Crime must be addressed in order to have a functional and productive society. How can society better use the prison system to work for those incarcerated and the general public?
  3. How can the prison system be used to serve communities?
  4. Do you believe that mass incarceration is racially motivated due to the past? Why or why not?
  5. Do you believe America can survive without the use of slavery in one form or another?

Undiscovered Talent

On of the biggest difficulties that I come across on a daily basis has to be the undiscovered talent and skills individuals have, and us ‘inmates’ are the only ones that tend to see them. With very limited access to the outside environment, many of the talents and beautiful skills that these incarcerated individuals have go undiscovered for years (and sometimes even lifetimes) without ever being discovered by normal society. This is one of the things that tends to rub me in the wrong way.

Freedom of expression in our free world (country) should be and unalienable right? Am I wrong? And without the proper platforms for these types of expressions to reach the free world, turns into a form of oppression in my personal opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few ways that we can contact the outside , but we have to pay for it in order to do these things. From buying postage stamps, J-Pay stamps, and collect and debit calls. J-Pay & GTL Phone services offer very few things for individuals whole are not fortunate enough to have financial support on the outside. This not only inhibits people from reaching out to the people who could spread the word of their particular gifts and talents, but this is also morally crushing as well.

The state offers employment, but the waiting list for a job opportunity can be very lengthy. Additionally, over the years the educational opportunities have become fewer and fewer.
In conclusion, another terrible thing is that this bill that was rescinded after many people across Virginia were promised closer release dates. My time is very short so I have to end this as briefly as possible because of the time limit on the kiosk. But these are some of the things that aren’t right from my perspective. We need more people to notice the true Brilliance Behind Bars!!

J. Reinard #1523818
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Shaveek’s Opinion on Second Look Qualifications

From my knowledge of the second look legislation and the requirements to petition, it serves a great opportunity for those of us who have already determined use in our incarceration as a means of better ourselves.

Even more than that, I believe that it’s an even better opportunity for those of us who have lost all hope of regaining our freedom and acceptance into society. Regardless of the prison system being identified as a place of “correction,” there are very few chances of lasting rehabilitation and in most cases, these chances are only given to the “privileged.” By the time we may have a chance at rehabilitation, it’s usually towards the end of our sentence where it only serves as another responsibility that we must juggle along with the task of building an entire new life.

Personally, I believe that nothing is impossible and success depends on a person’s willingness to act in any given situation. All of the regulations that come with petitioning for a second look are useful in some aspects, but for those who have committed a crime at the age of 26 or older, it only serves as an unnecessary obstacle, as your age when you committed your crime is irrelevant to who you are today. They should only require 10 years as well.

As far as staying charge-free goes, I definitely believe that “keeping your nose clean” is a discipline that will only make an individual more productive. There are some situations where we may be unfairly treated in order to sabotage our chances at a successful homecoming, but any system that cannot protect the ones it is supposed to govern will fall of its own accord. The temporary setbacks would be nothing compared to ultimate elevation of the individual. Unfortunately, I don’t currently meet the qualifications of being charge free for 5 years, but through my disciplinary infractions, I’ve become more disciplined in my own actions which have both kept me out of trouble and made me productive in other areas. Second look legislation is a great opportunity for all of us, even if we can’t see it.

My name is Shaveek Pittman, and I am currently incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Center, and my projected release date is in 2026. Change is right around the corner!

Shaveek Pittman