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

Reaching Out: About Prison Food

Thank you for the platform to express my ideas and comments. For the people that are not effected by the new bill and will be here for a while, this issue with the food we are receiving is slowly killing us.

Here at Deerfield Correctional Center in Va., it is a geriatric facility with men 45 and older. You would think that we would be receiving a well balanced and nutritional diet, being that our health and age desires so, but this is to the contrary. We only receive two vegetables a day and we are being served chicken bulk 10 to 14 times a week. This chicken bulk contains all the undesirable parts of the chicken and is highly processed and unhealthy.

The doctors here at Deerfield have recommended that we don’t eat this. The menu does not reflect this. They list meals like sausage gravy, texas hash, creole mac, sloppy joe, and spaghetti, but all these examples and many other entrees are made with the same meat (chicken bulk). So to the powers that be, it looks like we’re being fed an assortment of different entrees, but in reality we’re being fed the same meat over and over again. Sometimes 3 times in one day. We have written complaints over and over again to no avail. This matter needs to be addressed. Thank you.

MICHAEL LOISEAU

What’s Free, Part 2

by Lord Serious

What does freedom mean to you? Freedom is commonly defined as being free from restraint or bondage. There will be some who will read this, who think to be free simply means “you are not in jail or prison.” Then there are others who are currently in prison, or who’ve spent time in confinement, who view it a little differently. After serving time as a prisoner under physical restraint and bondage, you may tend to look at what it means to be ‘free’ from totally different perspective.

When you no longer have the freedom to come and go as you please, you quickly realize that the worst thing about being incarcerated is not the physical bondage; it’s the mental chains that weigh you down the most. Being trapped in your own head, reliving past traumatic events, imaging endless scenarios about how your life would’ve turned out differently if you had only made different decisions. The stress and tortured inflicted by the what ifs, the I should’ve – could’ve – would’ves, and the unbearable pain of heartache you feel after losing a loved one who you never got to say goodbye to, or a love interest to another man who can fulfill her physical needs. All of the above cause pain that teach the physical prisoner that it is the mental chains that he must first liberate himself from in order to endure and survive prison.

But you see the problem with these two perspectives is that they are too narrow. What freedom is, or isn’t in the above-mentioned context can only be explained through its relation to prison.

What about the restraints society imposes upon the public? Do these encroach upon our freedom? Do the laws and social norms impede our ability to fully express ourselves? Are we somehow less free in a society with man made laws that place restrictions on our behavior? What about the laws of nature? Can you be truly free if you are unwillingly bound to obey the physical laws of the universe?

What about financial freedom? Why must we borrow and accrue debt just to live a lifestyle beyond our means? Why must I pay back what I borrow, especially when the creditor adds interest? In a truly free society, wouldn’t food, clothing, and shelter be free?

What is sexual freedom and should society place limitations on it? Should people have the sexual freedom to explore all our their urges whenever they choose? Should same sex marriages be lawful in a free society? Should the society determine gender roles, or are we free from making a choice because these roles have already been predetermined by nature? Are we bound to the gender of our genitals or do we have the freedom to change it whenever we please? Now, do not think I am advocating any of the above-mentioned behavior. This is simply an impartial analysis of the broader implications for what is, or what isn’t freedom?

These are some complicated and controversial personal and societal issues. But the central theme to them all is what’s freedom? These are controversial issues because they put individual freedoms into direct conflict with societal norms. It is the duty of society to act in the best interest of the majority? But many times these societal norms oppose our freedom to pursue our own individual self interest. So how do you find a balance between individual freedoms and group freedoms? How do you reconcile their differences when they take opposing sides? And who decides who’s right and who’s wrong when everyone has their own opinion?

So when you ask me what’s free? My answer is simply I don’t know. I haven’t the slightest clue what freedom is, because I have never fully experienced freedom on an individual level, nor have I experienced it on a group level. Freedom has eluded me my whole life. In fact, I spent my entire life living in a society that had laws and social norms that I played no role in deciding, yet, I had to conform to them. Sometimes I did, but a lot of times I didn’t. But these social norms are used to control the behavior of those who live within the society. Certain social deviances are frowned upon but they are accepted, but there are also categories of social deviances that this society has criminalized. As a result of my social deviance from societal norms, I was sent to prison. So as an individual, I have never been free. I have always had to live by someone else’s rules.

However, on a group level, the native Black person living in America is the most over-regulated and controlled group in this country. The societal norms of this society has literally passed laws that explicitly stated that it is illegal to be Black in America. As societal norms changed, these laws were rewritten in a race neutral language that permitted the racist spirit of the law to still be enforced. So is it really any surprise that in less than 200 years after the abolition of slavery, my group would suffer from the mass incarceration of our people all over again? Or that we would still be fighting for the freedom to cast Black ballots in free and fair elections?

What’s free? What will it take for my people to be free from racism? What will it take for the world to be free from White supremacy? I think it takes a virtuous freedom. A freedom where Black people willingly sacrifice some of their individual freedoms for the greater good of our race. Only once we achieve this unified freedom will our group gain the freedom to exercise self determination as a people. Only then will our group gain the freedom to compete against White supremacy, and only then will it be destroyed. Only after White supremacy has been destroyed, will we as individuals have the freedom to enjoy and express our melanin without fear of repercussions.

To learn more about me visit my website http://www.lordseriousspeaks.com.

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

A Trick

“…it’s a trick… thinking its a right of passage for a black male, ain’t real n!##@ til you enter that jail…”

-Royce Da 5’9″, “Tricked”- The Allegory

That line hits home hard. As a black man who, as a child, knew nothing of racial conflict and black stereotypes, as I look back, I see my preteen childhood as a testament to that truth–we’ve seen prison as a right of passage for us.

It’s an unspoken tradition– a vile trick that has effected, to this day, the lives of many young black men and boys. When confronted with great adversity, children normally look to their heroes for guidance on how to handle life’s issues. But many black boys suffer from America’s increasing culture of fatherlessness. What is a little black boy to do then?

Due to the struggles of black men to provide for their families in the overtly racist America of the very recent past, they found themselves faced with a life threatening dilemma– make their own way with any means available to them, or suffer the sight of a family deprived. In a country that blatantly disapproved of them solely because of their appearance, black men expressed their anger with American society by disregarding the laws – the same laws, that legally ostracized them. Therefore, the black rebel became a symbol of heroism for black Americans across the country– strong black men who stared into the face of overwhelming odds and chose survival. This became the definition of a black man. But this is also where the trick began…

It’s not a secret – for a time, America was all but inhospitable to black people. Sadly but understandably, what it has meant to be black has become an embrace of anti-establishment ideology. Why? Well, we have to understand that every prominent black American hero, at the hands of white people, have been harassed, beaten, imprisoned, and/or killed! We think if we are bold like our heroes, who had to brave the violence and strife brought on by racism and the government leaders who either participated or enabled it, only then are we strong enough to be black men in this country.

If the world of American racism is symbolized as a battleground, then the prison system would be behind enemy lines. The jails became a place where survivors of the struggle were held. The same way we honor prisoners of war, we honor the ex-convict black man who survived the extent of white oppression.

As the world evolves, so too should the mindset and model of the black American male. But I fear that if there is always a going to be a battlefield (societal racism), there are always going to be fighters, and prisoners of war (black men behind bars).

This Black History Month, let’s take some time to reflect on how we can change this for future generations.

-Q. Patterson

Introducing Caged Cranes

The crane is born to fly… Caged, some cranes peck at themselves until they are bare. Some of them conform to their entrapments, others, they continue to fly…

The description above is not only about the tall wading class of birds known for their grace and elegance. It is also a survey of the many men I have seen held to the confines of the Virginia State Correctional System.

For over a decade, I have been one of those men… bound and surrounded. I have been sentenced to murkily strut the grounds of state correctional facilities speckled across Virginia – quite simply, as a crane caged and barred from its birthright. However, I’ve always been accompanied by the practice of prayer and meditation: my means to fly…

Furthering my spirituality by body, a friend and I came into possession of a few books on the art of Tai Chi and Chi Kung a year ago. We took to the practices in the books, got more into general health and wellness, and had an idea to help make a difference beyond the walls, Caged Cranes.

Caged Cranes is a concept that seeks to unite at-risk youth with the spiritual practices of Tai Chi and Chi Kung as a means for greater personal growth and spiritual development. It is based off of the idea that the opening of spiritual awareness is an opening to a greater outlook on life and an increased chance to see better options in less than opportune circumstances.

Fortunately, I found spiritual desire in my own journey, but I know I would have benefited from this type of programming in my teenage years. In the past 13 years of my incarceration, spiritual development has been a key pillar in my overall growth. 2008 is when I received a 20-year sentence for a mistake I made as a wayward young man, after the loss of my grandmother, Sharon Lynn Dixon. She was my rock and a vehement believer in God. She was an evangelist at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Virginia. For as long as I had known her, she was bound to a wheelchair, where she had been ever since she was shot in the back by a possessive ex-husband. As tragic as her situation was, my grandmother never let it stop her from taking to the streets every Saturday, going door-to-door to share the joy and strength she received from her belief in God. From a wheelchair, she still managed to stand as tall as anyone in the room. Her voice was always filled with vigor and passion, spirit and truth. Her hope was never sealed to the limits of her chair, it buzzed around the air she carried, and it flew as high as the heavens she envisioned.

I’ve held the spirit of my grandmother close every step of the way through my incarceration. Through her spirit, I have found my own connection and relationship to God and spirituality. A relationship that has kept me on a path of great personal growth and spiritual development. Growing up, we didn’t have much, but what my grandmother gave me has proven itself a priceless and irreplaceable treasure. A message I wish to share with others who find themselves caged: imprisoned by circumstance. No matter the obstacle or situation, we are all cranes with a birthright to soar.

I am imprisoned, but by body only. My mind continues to soar above and beyond the prison walls. I never gave up on my desire to seek higher education and help others. 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 blessed with an opportunity to fulfill my college-level education goals. Currently, I’m taking correspondence courses at Ohio University. As of right now, I’m seeking to obtain an associate degree in social sciences. 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 nearly 2 years.

My successes in the darkest of places only prove that progress is possible for those who may have experienced difficult childhoods or economic drawbacks.

I truly believe that the troubled youths of today can benefit from the practice of Tai Chi, and we can work with them to identify the spiritual beacons of their own lives. My hope is that this would result in an increase in youth achievement and lower incarceration rates for young vulnerable black men and boys – helping them find a higher purpose within themselves to achieve their goals.

I plan to implement this and other programming to give back to the community when I am released.

Q. Patterson, Founder of Brilliance Behind Bars

Editors Note: To learn more about Q, take a look at his origin story here.

Just Maybe

Just maybe,
if I wasn’t considered 3/5ths of a hue-man being
and stripped of my nationality and creed by Europeans,
my right to vote would not denied or abridged,
my citizenship would not be secondary to his.
I would not be treated apparently with racial disparity,
my vote is my voice, my moment of clarity.

Just maybe,
if I knew the power of the vote before imprisonment
and realized the inability to vote was a hindrance
I would not be looked at as insignificant.
Just maybe, I would be treated with equality,
and not defeated by poverty.
just maybe,
they would understand my people’s psychology.

Just maybe,
if my political views weren’t misconstrued as being racist, or me being bias.
Just maybe, my views come from me being tired,
and me being bullied by Goliath.
What is power, but an illusion driven by force?
What better way to gain control than imprison the source?

Just maybe, if we were able to cast a vote,
It would give the people of the lower class some hope.
Just maybe…

My name is Antoinne Pitt, I am from Portsmouth, Virginia, currently incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Center. I am the author of Thinking With A Purpose, which is a curriculum created to reduce the rate of recidivism and prevent criminal thinking and influences and the author of C.O.A.T (Countering Overdoses and Addiction Treatment) a curriculum created to combat the opioid epidemic that has plagued our nation. You can contact my publisher, Winter Giovanni, for additional information or go to www.infinitypublicationsllc.net to see my bio. You can also support my fight for freedom by signing my change.org petition, or writing a support letter to: the Secretary Of Commonwealth, P.O. Box 2454 Richmond, VA 23218- 2454.

Peace and Blessings.

Future

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X

This quote just spoke to me as I read it this morning – because for millions behind the walls, their outlook of a future is bleak. Their daily view of life is bars, concrete and metal. Their days consist of daily counts, consumption of food not fit for humans, wearing the same orange/blue/brown jumpsuits (for the most case). I ask, how does one prepare for a future when they have no idea what the future holds for them? They were given decades long sentences and laws continue to overlook them because of their offense. They are deemed outcasts, a threat to society and threaten public safety. Some are innocent and punished for exercising their right to a fair trial. Others were teenagers, immature or dealing with mental illnesses and made a bad choice. How can they prepare for a future when they are not promised one outside the walls? How can your future belong to those who are prepared for it, when their future lies in the hands of legislators and lawmakers!

Over the last month and even some in 2020, I witnessed lawmakers and legislators sit in a box, debating the future of thousands of men and women behind the walls. Having intense discussions about their very livelihood as if they were discussing a non-existent thing that has no life. When they were discussing the fate of a human—a person that lives, breathes and who has the same red colored blood flowing through their bodies as them.  But they argued and determined that their lives do notmatter. They made decisions to kill bills that would allow those persons to come home to people that love them, children that miss them and spouses that bears the weight of life without them daily. These lawmakers and legislators do not know what it feels like to live this life every day because at the end of each day, when they are done making choices and decisions that keeps men/women behind the walls—they go home to their family, their children, and their spouses. They go home to family dinners and spend time tucking their children into bed each night. They sleep in a bed that is plush and comfortable. They have access to an unlimited supply of necessities. They do not worry whether they will wake up to see another day. 

These men and women still strive to have a positive outlook on life. They still strive to lay the foundation of a better future. They do not allow their current situations stop them from becoming a better person. They have owned their bad choice. They are not making excuses for what happened to them. Daily, they are growing, maturing, and changing the trajectory of their future. They have not allowed the obstacle of their path deter them from working towards their FUTURE!

In the words of our first black President: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama

– Jerry James, Deerfield Correctional Center

Slavery

We are slaves in the midst of freedom, waiting patiently and unconcernedly, indifferently, and stupidly, for masters to come and lay claim to us, trusting their generosity, whether or not they will own us and carry us into endless bondage.

Martin Delaney (1812-1885 United States)

My name is Antoinne Pitt I am from Portsmouth, Virginia. This profound statement can be related to today’s time because slavery still exists but is done more intelligently. The Constitution of the United States abolished slavery, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party has been duly convicted.

Prison warehousing is modern day slavery and the convicted are the subjects. A system has been put in place that is designed for people of the lower class to fail. Projects and section 8 housing were built to house individuals with a low income. In these environments, the lower class people become susceptible to the things that go on, because the things that we see and hear are planted in our subconscious mind and stored as sensory data. This is where the term ‘product of my environment’ takes rise. We begin to adapt to these environments and begin to engage in some of the activities in what we call a will to survive. Adapting to this survival-of-the-fittest mentality has lead to the mass incarceration of the olive people.

Prison is a billion dollar industry and is truly legalized slavery. A system was put in place and designed for us to fail, but that does not mean we have to fail. Self government relinquishes the power of those that govern. This legalized slavery can be combated by governing yourself – if not, you are consenting to be governed. This is done by living a righteous life, right thought, right action and adhering to the universal law of cause and effect that governs all events. A person who didn’t teach you right has no intentions of treating you right.

You are only as free as your thoughts. Stop waiting for your master to give you direction, but direct the course of your life by mastering yourself. Peace and love.

– Antoinne Pitt, From Portsmouth / LVCC

Criminal

To be a criminal is not soley a matter of self determination, no more than being homeless is. It is accompanied with a lack of social responsibility as well. Almost no one randomly wakes up and says “I just want to commit crimes for a living.” No.

Illegal acts are social dilemmas, mostly committed in states of distress, where individuals are seeking immediate relief from very present, very persistent problems. In this search, they make grave mistakes, sometimes harming others… inconsiderate of others, because of the apparent lack of consideration for them by others. The pressures and problems they face are less likely of their own making. Crime on a large scale is a societal problem that plagues the impoverished. A problem few of our leaders see fit to impute upon the victims or simply ignore.

Where the jurisdiction of social responsibility ends, the choice of an individual to select a destiny of their choosing must take precedence. The identity of a criminal must be shed, because a criminal is not what you are just because a crime is what you’ve committed. In opposition, society’s inclination to be “tough on crime” and continue to demonize those who (for the most part) are victims of society’s failures, does not allow for such realization. Truth is, society has had a great hand in trapping millions of people into the role of the “criminal.” Showing them that their lives are less and beyond redemption; that their existence does not amount above the mistakes they have made.

The abolishment of parole and the reluctance to restore it, along with the restriction of earned sentence credits disregards the practice of incentive as a means of enforcing ethical behavior. In fact, it enforces the idea that no matter your behavior, your lot in life is unchangeable, breeding despair and further instilling the persona of the criminal.

To be a criminal is not a crime, it is merely a product of an imperfect society, but to remain one is. To assume that this problem is definite is a grave injustice that stands to keep destroying countless lives and stagnating the evolution of society as a whole…

– Q . Patterson, Brilliance Behind Bars Creator, #1392272