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

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.

Reparations of Self

What’s Godly everyone? I am Allure, The Seer of Truth, and I would like to give a big salute with the upmost respect to the founder of this incredible platform, Q.

Speaking of this topic, it all start with self. You know the first disagreement we had with the universe is accepting the false truth of separation from the universe and believing in everything outside of self. To know self is to know everything, to know everything is to know self – so when you look in the mirror you are looking at trillions of years of evolution. You are priceless. Look at the process it took just for elements to take form of human??? Well, news flash: you are that special specimen.

Before we think about reparations on wealth, first we need to seek reparations of self. The most valuable tool that anyone has and also the most powerful, is the mind. It has no beggining nor end. It has unlimited power and capabilities. You are exactly what you think, so think gigantic and stable and not little and fragile. Be consistent and persistent with knowing and understanding who you are and everything else will follow. A wise man of the east once said: “They’re either gonna become like you, or you will become like them. The choice is yours.”

-Allure

CRT: Second Class Citizens

I greet everyone in the Moorish greeting of Islam! My name is Antoinne Pitt #1157338, housed at Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

The topic of critical race theory should be closely examined in order to over stand the perpetuation of mental slavery. The 13th amendment abolished physical servitude unless punishable for a crime. Minority elites established a highly racist system known as apartheid meaning apartness in which minorities and people of the olive hue were denied political rights. In the days of civilization, the olive hue people were divided amongst classes based on those who were considered to be evolved or civilized based upon religious beliefs, education and economic status and the attainment of this status ensured access to more granted privileges and protection under the legal system per U.S. constitution. Those who were considered uncivilized were those who would not surrender to their religious customs, and beliefs and were classified as 3/5ths of a person. Our olive skin complexion makes us of the same class but economic status and social status creates division within the classes. This social construct of race is a destructive nature that is manipulated by the divide and rule policies of authoritarian regimes.

Our legal system is derived from Civil or Roman law and the belief that men and women are not endowed with the capacity of self governing. All law and authority is therefore derived externally from statuses devised and imposed by rulers whether a pope, king, monarch or government. This system was developed from philosophy and Roman property law in which creation is divided and human beings are treated as chattel and the possessions of others are devoid of inherent liberties. We are thus in every sense enslaved and cut off from the world given freely in common to all. This slave system ranks and categorizes people, and grants restricted freedoms that are defined and limited through statutes issued by the rulers, the ones that institute the laws, in which prison is a institution used to warehouse property, property being the one’s that broke the laws in which the rulers instituted. This is why the prison system is disproportionately black. A system was designed and put in place for people of the olive hue to get caught in it’s entanglement. Law protecets racism because it is said that ignorance is no excuse for the law and black is a state of ignorance. Until we understand law and it’s origin, we will continue to over populate the penal system. What we see today is the result of a so called black race being treated as second class citizens. As long as we are viewed as such, the law will never be for us, but against us, and the United States constitution is the law of the land. Peace.

My conditional pardon was recently denied but the fight for freedom hasn’t and will not stop. Sign my online petition Seeking Justice For Antoinne Pitt and go to www.infinitypublicationsllc.net to see a sypnosis of my curriculum “Thinking With A Purpose,” which is a curriculum created to reduce the rate of recidivism and prevent criminal thinking and influences. Also you can contact my publisher Winter Giovanni the founder of Infinity Publications to learn more about my curriculum C.O.A.T (Countering Overdoses and Addiction Treatment) a curriculum created to prevent and reduce the rate of opioid overdoses. I came in love and leave in peace.

A Thin Line Between a Hero and a Criminal, Q’s Origin Story

I’m not sure how many people understand how thin of a line there is between the path of being a criminal, and the path of being a hero — other than the people who have walked it. More so, the people who have unfortunately stumbled upon the darker side.

I have been incarcerated going fourteen years now. Over this time, I’ve lost my grandmother, chose to pick up the practice of prayer and meditation, and through the help of a loved one, been able to embrace my great desire for higher education. Reflecting on my life, I’ve been able to ascertain the point where it all changed for me — a childhood experience where I trickled over the line where hero meets villain.

I’ve always considered myself a good kid. After several different location changes in my childhood, concepts like school and friends did not have the time to take an impacting hold on my life. However, I’ve always honored my parents, respected my elders, and was always ready to help anyone I could, when I could. My mother struggled with jobs and relationships as she tried to raise my siblings and I. She didn’t have enough energy to work long hours, endured massive migraines, chased behind three pre-teenaged boys (and a baby girl), on top of being very poor. An over-premissive parenting style seemed the viable option for her, so my brothers and I were free to roam and interpret the world on our own. Innocent enough, all of these factors set the ground for the childhood experience that changed my life.

I was ten years old when my family moved to a housing project in Durham, NC. Then, the Pokémon craze had set in heavy. Everyone had their gameboys, the videogames, and the trading cards. This craze didn’t fail to reach me either. I was totally in love with all things Pokémon.

I was at a cousin’s house, walking around their neighborhood. I was showing my cousins my rare holographic Pokémon cards, when a group of three older, unfamiliar kids walked up. I remember them clearly. One was a light-skinned boy, his hair was unkept and his clothes were a bit ragged and dirty. There was a kid who was big and round, he wore an old dress shirt that was too small for him, some old khaki pants and had a chipped tooth. The third was a very small boy who looked way younger than us. He had a bandana wrapped around his head with the knot tied to the front. “Hey, let me see those,” the light-skinned boy said. I looked at him with a smile on my face, and without hesitation gave him the cards in my hand. Excitedly, I began to explain the different cards and my love of Pokémon. Suddenly, he punched me in the shoulder and said, “These are mine now,” he then jumped back and threw up his fists in a fighter’s stance. I looked at him in amazement for a second before I understood what was going on. Outside of play – wrestling around with my brothers on the living room floor, I never had been in a fight before. Recognizing what was happening, I took a stance in defense of myself and my property. We danced in a circle, and before any strike was thrown, I saw a shiny piece of chrome glimmer in the corner of my eye, and then was frozen in astonishment. “What you gonna do now!?” is what the tiny bandana-ed boy said as he pointed a small handgun at my face. My mind and body were locked in place. Of course, I had never since an actual gun before, but being predisposed to cartoons, movies, and video games, I knew just how deadly a gun could be. Noticing how petrified I was, the boys turned away and fled with laughter and my trading cards in tow.

Seeing them disappear behind the houses of the neighborhood, anger and sadness boiled up inside of me. A raging ball of newly recognized emotions exploded, and I just erupted into tears. I sat on the porch of my cousin’s friend’s house shaking uncontrollably and bawling with my head in my lap. My younger brother sat beside me, his hand was rubbing me on my back in an attempt to comfort me. Strangely, I felt shame, cowardice, and disgust with myself. “Why didn’t I do something!? Why was I so afraid?” I cried inside and began I blame myself for being too kind, for giving the boy my cards. I looked at my little brother… I wanted to be strong for him, be his hero, and I felt like I had let him down. Through tear-filled eyes, I looked him in the face and cried out a promise, “I will never let anyone take anything away from me again!” Little did I know, that day and that promise would change my life forever.

Not too long after that encounter, I found it harder to walk away from confrontation or any type of situation that I could prove how brave I was. I found it harder to walk away from fights with the other kids, to walk away from challenges of thievery and delinquency. My behavior lead me to a childhood of truancy, underaged drinking, doing drugs and even joining a gang at the age of eleven. I no longer felt like a coward or a victim, but I didn’t realize at that age, that I was victimizing my mother and eventually myself with my erroneous quest for bravery. As a child, its hard to determine the line between being a hero and a villain. Even as adults, we look at most criminals as fearless or unhinged. These assumptions are not entirely true. Most of us here in prison were fatherless, scared children who managed our fear in distressing environments by imitating what we thought was brave.

Through meditation, prayer, and education, I’ve now come to realize what bravery truly is. I earned my GED within my first years of incarceration. 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. I currently take print-based college courses at Ohio University, studying to receive a degree in social sciences. I plan to use my education, reinforced by my experience to help deter youths who have fallen on the wrong side of that thin line. I also want to work with local legislators to create policies that support them.

While I’ve been able to achieve this level of growth during my incarceration, my story did not have to have this chapter of imprisonment. That leaves me with the questions: How can we save those noble little boys out there who are only seeking to be heroes? How do we teach them not only courage, but righteousness and strength, without ever having them see a jail cell? Through my story, I hope to increase the awareness that the world is full of these misguided good kids, who didn’t have a proper chance to find the heroes they truly were, before it was too late. If we can do a better job of identifying these special children, we can help them be more than just villains society believes deserve nothing more than a life of incarceration. We can create more heroes…

Our mission focuses on remembering the brilliance behind bars, giving incarcerated people who want to be heroes a chance to show the world that they CAN be.

– Q. Patterson, Creator and Organizer of BrillinaceBehindBars.com