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

Antoinne Pitt’s Thoughts on Second Look

My name is Antoinne Pitt and I’m 39 years of age, and from Portsmouth, Virginia. The problem that I could foresee with the second look legislation would be for those who have been discriminated against in regards to completing programs and trades. In the state of Virginia, the Department Of Corrections only allows offenders to complete a trade every 5 years. This is already an obstacle, and given the fact that offenders with lengthy sentences are placed on the back of the waiting list and those with shorter sentences are placed at the top, makes it nearly impossible to complete such trades and programs. So, in order for everyone to meet the criteria and the standard of Second Look legislation, every offender must be given equal opportunity if rehabilitation is judged on the merit of being infraction-free and completing the available trades and programs that are being offered.

Counselors and Unit managers are professionals who were hired by D.O.C and placed in these designated positions because they were deemed fit for the job. As an offender, these authoritative figures are people that we encounter nearly everyday. Professionals who can attest to our character and our behavior and should have the opinion on whether or not we are deemed fit for society. Counselors and Unit Managers that have exemplified professionalism in these positions should be able to give input on the court’s decision and make recommendations. Also if offenders can produce documentation showing that they signed up for available trades and programs then it should not be held against them for not completing such programs.

If this Second Look legislation became law, it would benefit me tremendously because not only am I innocent of a crime that I was convicted of, I did not use that as an excuse to self destruct. Instead, I utilized my time to be productive. Within a 20 year span, I have completed 2 trades and just about every program that D.O.C has to offer. I also created to curriculums of my own entitled Thinking With A Purpose and C.O.A.T (Countering Overdoses and Addiction Treatment). My beliefs are that violence and infraction stem from offenders having nothing to do or look forward to. In order to combat this, there needs to be more programs and incentives for offenders to work towards in order to have a second chance at freedom. Then, you will see a shift in behavior, and as a result, there will be less infractions.

The pros and cons of Second Look versus parole is the fact I feel the views and decision of a judge would be unbiased. Judges in my opinion are fair and impartial. The nature of the crime of which individuals were convicted of will not change, and the parole board has more often than not used this year after year as an excuse to deny offenders parole.

My name is Antoinne Pitt and I’m from Portsmouth, VA. I am a rapper, singer, songwriter and the author of Thinking With A Purpose and C.O.A.T (Countering Overdoses and Addiction Treatment). You can log on to www.infinitypublicationsllc.net and click on ‘author’ to see my bio. You can also sign my change.org petition as well check out my interview on Real Prison Talk Facebook live page and ‘From Prison To Promise’ podcast. Super School Heroes children’s book trilogy will be out in the near future. In closing, true freedom is reached only when the mind is freed of all mental restraints.

Prompt: Introducing Second Look

Thousands of us in the prison system are serving lengthy sentences, some even without any hope of making it out of prison alive. Since 1995, several states, including Virginia, removed parole from their legal system, deepening the prison as a pit of despair. For the last 25 years, people (largely black and brown) have been unfairly profiled and incarcerated for sentences often doubling (or even tripling) the age when they received that sentence. Currently, there are over 53,000 people in America who are serving life without parole, and every 1 out of 4 are serving sentences of 15 years or more.

More locally, there is not much incentive to encourage a large portion of the population in here to seek better. Seriously, what is a 20-year old young man to think when he receives a 30 year sentence? Even with the updated good time bill, sentences of 30 years are more than likely not eligible for 65% (15 days of good time off your sentence for every 30 days time served).

So – what is a better motivating force for a young man who is now getting a good look down the dark tunnel he faces, if he continues with the pattern of choice he made to get locked up? I can tell you this, it’s NOT getting out when he’s 45 after serving a 25 and a half year bid (and that’s with no disciplinary infractions), a GED, and a trade certificate to go along with the permanent scar of ex-felony attached to his record!

The answer to many questions concerning rehabilitation, relief, and incentives thereof, is prospective legislation called Second Look.

‘Second Look’ is an additional route to a second chance, differentiating from parole, as it involves petitioning the court for a sentence modification. It proposes that after a defined period of time (like 10 years or so) served on an extensive sentence (I.e. 20 years or more), people behind bars can petition the court of the district they were sentenced in. There is even a chance that your sentence can be reduced down to time served. Now, this isn’t automatic. The draft propose that a board of more than the judge who sentenced you has a say in it. The prosecutor and prison staff might even be able to chime in on your potential time reduction. Ideally, you would be able to show rehabilitation, such as education, infraction-free, programs completed and trades obtained.

Second Look is already federal and versions of this legislation have been written, reviewed, and even passed in several states, most recently Texas. Now, in 2021, advocate groups are pushing to make it a reality in Virginia. It goes without saying, that such a law isn’t going to pass without a fight.

Prompt: After reading the topic above, write an essay (at least two paragraphs in length, if you can, please). answering some, one, or all of the questions below.

Are there any problems you can foresee with legislation like Second Look?

Do you have any ideas to improve this proposal? if so, what are they?

If this became law, how would this effect you? How would it affect the system?

What are some of the pros and cons you see with Second Look versus parole?

-Q. Patterson

Prompt: Justice for All? Overcoming Racism in America

From day one, American children are unassumingly taught of a set of illusionary lines concerning race… lines that marked boundaries, established sides, and created imaginary boxes that have kept a great disparagement present between races in America, possible.

The American heritage can be accurately described as one giant story of racial volatility. Its origins are steeped in a history of industrial slavery, initiating racial proclivities sustaining major gaps between the black and white conscious in America since the emancipation of slaves. All the psychological devices used to engineer more complaint products in the slave trade, and ensure that the markets could be ripe with white consumers who actually WANTED to own other human beings, had some serious after-effects. Effects that have prompted a set of unspoken laws and rules that serve to preserve the series of debaucheries that created America and its debased heritage of racial inequality…

No present day American is totally free from the effects fore mentioned. The propagation of racial class and the absurd idea of an inferior or superior race forms the basis of what the present black-white social interaction is in our counter. The concepts of white privilege and black anger show the deep contrast of the American experience. The practice of widely accepted, government sponsored denigration of humans into property, is our history. Black leaders only sought out the complicated task of reconstructing the identity of an enslaved, newly-freed, newly- formed people, Black Americans. The first bit of culture Black Americans assumed for themselves was met with public skepticism and political fear-mongering. The majority and mainstream America instantly demonized it and branded the concept of “being Black” as a lunatic fringe, subversive counterculture. “Being Black,” they labeled as “aggressive” and “anarchist.” Black people were displeased and here to overthrow the government. “They’re angry, they’re loud, you should fear them…”

Time has exposed the truth and brought their devices to heel. The modern-mind of our nation now has experienced the advent of social media in the age of information, a Renaissance in thought on American society and race relations. Now, what do we do with it? We COULD say the atrocities committed against black people were done in the ignorance that befell a still growing America… sure, that COULD be said… but that’s for those who truly believe in the strength of human decency and the belief that love can and will transcend us all into a greater society. Still, for those select few, there is the essential task of activism – manifesting beliefs into the material world by means of work… regardless of color, right is right. That feeling that claws at the heart for change, is justice. It is real and it is one. It is the key to the next step in us all making America ‘greater than it’s ever been.’

Educate the mind, keep up the body, free the soul. All power to the brothers and sisters of the struggle… We are one nation. INDIVISIBLE, with JUSTICE FOR ALL…

Prompt: Write an essay, make art, or write a poem answering the following:

What is your experience with racism? Can it be conquered or overcome? Do you have ideas how to do it?

With the special session coming up, they say there’s a chance for change within the system. Do you see that helping or hurting chances at overcoming racism and achieving justice?

-Q. Patterson

‘What’s Free?’ Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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