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Friday, November 20, 2015

Letters of Lament From A Virginia Prison

Every week I get heartbreaking letters from state prison inmates, especially from older men who were incarcerated twenty or more years ago (before parole was abolished) and/or those who are eligible for Geriatric Release, men who have tried their hardest to earn their release. Mr. Pack, the writer of the first letter, is on the left in the photo below. Next to him is John Bennie Williams, 82 and blind. He has been in prison 39 years, and turned down for parole 27 times.

Dear Mr. Yoder,

I want to thank you for all you are doing for me and all the others in and out of prison. It feels so good to have someone on our side who cares. Here are ten stamps for you. I know its not much but I thought you could use them in some way. Thank you.

I'll be 66 years old March 17. I'm originally from West Virginia but came to Powhatan, Virginia in 1981. I got locked up in 1992 and lost everything because the devil was after me. I am not a bad person but I've made some stupid mistakes. I have accepted Christ into my life and I have a church to attend at home. My pastor is a very good man, and he was my parents' pastor before they passed on. 

Since I've been in prison I've lost six family members. I do still have some brothers and sisters who do care and are going to help me get on my feet. I also have a son and daughter who live in Ohio. God has blessed me with five grandsons since I've been in prison. I have only seen pictures of them, but we will get together when I get out. We stay in touch with each other a lot.

I go up for parole again November 30. If I make parole I hope to go back to West Virginia. I have a home and a job, and I hope to work at least five years or more. I know in my heart if I get parole I can build myself up again. The longer we stay in prison the harder it is when we are finally released.

All I ask for is a second chance. 

May God bless you with good health and in everything you do, and I pray you will all have a happy Thanksgiving. 

- Kenneth R. Pack #1063803, BKCC, P. O. Box 430, Dillwyn, VA 23936

I received the following the same day this week:

Dear sir:

I was given your address so I decided to write to you on behalf of my petition for Geriatric Conditional Release.

I was given 22 years on two counts of aggravated sexual battery 12 years ago. At first the charges were dropped because the Commonwealth had no evidence and the girl didn't want to testify. At the trial she and her mom lied.

I have pulled over half of my time and I have cancer. I have to be operated on to see if they can remove it.

So if there is anything you can do, I'll be 63 on November 22, and I am the youngest in my family out of 12. Seven have already died. I would like to see them again as a family. 

The girl lied. I never did anything to her or hurt her. The next day the police took her to the hospital to be examined and the doctor found no evidence of sexual harm done to her.

 My counselor here told me I go up again for a parole hearing in December. I think my cancer has spread. I'm in poor health and have high blood pressure and am a diabetic.

- Sylvester Pannell #1087964, P.O. Box 670, 1522 Prison Road, Dillwyn , VA 23936

Update: In this morning's paper I see that the Governor's Commission on Parole Review has decided against recommending the reinstatement of parole at this time, another heartbreaking development. Here's a link to contact the Governor to express your concern:
https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office

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