Why I Believe “CHANGE” is Possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenneth Bibbs #1114910
Deerfield Correctional Center

Thinking Within

What’s poppin’ my God’s & Goddesses of the Universe? I invade your atmosphere as God of my Universe in the name of Allure The Seer of Truth and as always, I want to give a warm and genuine thank you and salute to the brilliant founder of this platform, Q.

I want to start off by saying: “The devil’s time is up. These are desperate times for the devils for they know what most of us know not.” I know what they think I know not, I don’t feel bad cause I know and understand they are 100% weak and wicked they have no good in them. So when they do things of this nature, I understand it is their nature to do so. The evolution of extraordinary things is happening before our physical eyes but we have to give more attention to our mental eye for it is the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise. These devils do these hideous things to us because they know we care about the material rather than the most precious jewel on earth, universe, which is ‘US’. If what we’ve been doing isn’t working, then let’s do something different. For example, Dragonball Z, when a villain comes with all physical powerful strength, they use their energy and thoughts to ‘in-think’ the villain. I say ‘in’ because within is where everything exists, and is projected out. GET It?

Let’s use our energy together and overcome everything that is not us. For all that belongs to us, do your research on self and find out how powerful you really are.

Allure The Seer of Truth
DeAnthony Clark
#1411732, is where you can reach me on JPay.

Challenge

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
#1162777

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

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

Guarantee For Success

The Guarantee For Success is what comes to my mind when such topics relating to freedom are presented to me. Yes, the prison doors in Virginia are going to be opening up like never before due to a piece of legislation that was passed in 2021 General Assembly.

Many offenders are going to be released before their expected release date! But the reality is that freedom wont be valued as long as the contents of a man’s heart won’t be challenged beyond the crimes that lead them to prison. Character refers to the moral, strength, self discipline, fortitude or a good reputation. It is also what enables you to act on your integrity, which guides you to believed what is right or wrong. Yes, it is right for us to have this discussion but it is also wrong if everybody don’t play their part, and get a grip on not just prison, but the person as well.

Yours truly, Leroy Williams, of Deerfield Correctional Center

Prompt: What’s Free, Now?

It has been 2 years since BrillianceBehindBars has been encouraged to ask the question about what freedom means to you. Since then, the earned good time credits bill has been passed. Though it might have taken on new meaning, the question remains the same… “What’s free?”

The beginning effects of the earned sentence credit legislation is starting to reach the general population in prisons statewide in Virginia. The spirits within the walls are brightening with a new sheen of hope. but this newfound hope does not come without its own unique set of repercussions — the kind that are sure to accompany any type of mild life changes, whether incarcerated or not.

With thousands of incarcerated peoples eligible for early release and are about to experience an accelerated return to the public, the general air surrounding talks of early release comes with a slight tinge of fear. The burdens of public living have escaped many of us who have experienced an extensive amount of time behind bars. It is not hard to imagine how sudden news of early release could possibly appear a little suffocating for some of us here who seek to be independent and more than functional members of society.

Anyone who has spent even a night in jail has a larger frame of reference to draw from when the idea of “freedom” is loosely thrown around in town hall debates about wearing masks in a pandemic.

However, for anyone like us, who are armed with heightened awareness of what it truly means to be “imprisoned” – the idea of what “freedom” is (or what it means to be “free”) has evolved. That is to say, we know what it means to be free while still “locked up.” True freedom is achieved on multiple levels. Freedom in the truest sense involves freedom of the mind, and in our capitalist society, financial freedom is a must to say that we are truly free…

There is still a matter of tremendous amounts of suspended sentences looming over the heads of many who will soon leave the prison. Along with that, there are still major obstacles facing ex-felons in securing adequate employment and the restricted level they are allowed to participate in the political process. Sure, some of us will be leaving prison soon, but if not properly prepared, we could end up just trading one prison for another. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to have what we’ve always had. For most of us behind bars, that is unacceptable.

I am interested in hearing what some of us have planned to obtain this truer form of freedom. Whether or not you have benefitted from the new law, freedom for a lot of us now is only a matter of time. For others, freedom may still be in reach someday soon. What will you do with it?

Prompt questions to help inspire writing:
-Do you believe there’s more to true freedom than getting out?
-If you were set free today, what would you do and where would you go? What are your plans?
-What’s your ideal job or career? Do you think it will be difficult to attain?
-Do you see restoration of rights as an importance to your freedom? Why or why not?

With great love and respect for each and every one of you,
BrillianceBehindBars Creator, Q. Patterson

Rehabilitation, by Jerry James

Here at D.F.C.C, the inmates are very grateful that a new bill has been moving in the General Assembly to grant us the opportunity for some type of relief! However since 1995, the abolishment of parole, Virginia has not implemented any type of beneficial reform that would allow inmates to be released earlier. Nor has the V.A. D.O.C. given any incentive programs that will encourage good behavior and allow inmates to be released back into society. Therefore, we believe this bill, SB378, will be a great addition to prison reform.

You have individuals serving lengthy sentences looking forward to only 4.5 days a month – is that really an incentive to behave? This current law that’s in place is a hopeless law, which is the truth in sentencing act.

Let’s take for instance, myself, Jerry James, a first time offender who has done 22 yrs on a 38 year sentence with 11 years to go. I will admit in the beginning of my sentence, it was rough on me mentally. I really felt hopeless and didn’t see signs of relief. I gave up on the moral principles that I was raised upon and conformed to what I felt was normal prison life to fit in, as so many others that are in my position.

Then I came to my senses and realized that my decision did not only affect me, it took a toll on my kids and family and loved ones too. In order to change, I had to take the necessary steps to improve and change my way of thinking. I enrolled in mind changing programs such as Breaking Barriers, N.A. and A.A., Thinking for a Change, peer support groups and also going back to the way I was raised and got myself back right with God. I took Commercial cleaning class, plus I received my G.E.D. along with being Valedictorian of my graduating class. Now I am receiving my Associates degree in Biblical Studies at Revelation Message Bible College in Jacksonville, Florida. I have been charge-free for 17 years, so it is possible to do so, despite the many obstacles that I constantly have to hurdle to continue my rehabilitation!

I also hold the most trustworthy job at this facility, working for the Administration such as the Warden, Asst. Warden, the Major, Captains, and Lts, doing Custodial Maintenance and keeping their offices clean, along with hallways, floors, bathrooms, trash, sweeping, mopping and ordering supplies.

Therefore, I truly believe that SB 378 will be a great fit and will give guys something to work for to get home to their LOVED ONES!!!!!

Jerry James
Deerfield 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

Integration

“And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.” – James Baldwin

This quote spoke volumes to my heart because it clarifies the dilemma that we face in our country today and it encourages us not only to make change where it is needed, but to accept each other for who we are. So many mistakes were made in the past that we continue to perpetuate today through hidden (not so hidden) emotional conflict. It’s very difficult, and pretty much impossible to fix any problem while you persist in creating more. If we choose to judge others for their shortcomings, it takes our focus off of ourselves and puts an even heavier burden on them. There is no love in that, just conflict and eventually the line that separates right from wrong becomes non existent. Change is needed and everyone plays a part in that transformation. By dealing with others in love – not only are we acting in our true nature, but we become a light that reveals what’s in the hearts of others; giving them an opportunity to be a part of that much needed change that transforms a divided nation into a whole one. External peace means nothing when we still have animosity under the surface. But when we can see the lives of others as nothing separate from our own lives, integration becomes not only possible but inevitable.

-Shareek Pittman