Friday, August 12, 2016

"What More Can I Do To Prove I'm A Good Candidate For Parole Release?"

Sic Semper Captivas?
This is a copy of one of many letters of its kind I've received from deeply discouraged parole eligible inmates, this one addressed to members of the Virginia Parole Board. Mr. Forbes represents the kind of ex-offender who could make the case that Virginia's Department of Corrections can actually "correct" those it incarcerates and not just forever punish them.
Dear Sir/Madam,

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Roger E. Forbes #1163934. I am a first time offender. I am serving a life sentence plus thirty-eight (38) years, for armed robbery, malicious wounding as well as an additional robbery offense. I was twenty-two (22) years of age when I committed these offenses, I am currently forty-nine (49) years of age now and this is my twenty-sixth (26th) year of confinement.

I am writing you to ask what more can I do to be taken as a serious candidate for parole release? I know that the Parole Board has been appointed by the Governor to deal with matters of parole, but each year I am denied parole release and told to continue my hard work but, unfortunately, my hard work has gone unacknowledged. So can you please tell me, if you can, what more can I do to prove that I am truly a changed human being and good candidate for parole release?

I have been going up for parole review since 2003. It has become quite apparent to me that my sincere, genuine pleas to the Parole Board for a second chance to begin a new life beyond the confines of the prison gates have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears..While I am not happy with the Parole Board's recent (January 19, 2016) decision to not grant me parole at this time. I respect their decision, and understand that public safety is the Parole Board's primary concern in determining who and when an individual is chosen for parole release.

I cannot honestly say that I thoroughly understand what kind of process that the Parole Board goes through in assessing and evaluating those of us that are deemed good candidates for parole release.. I honestly, wholeheartedly believe and know that I am an excellent candidate.

After being turned down for parole release for over a decade thus far. it truly leaves me with a strong feeling of uncertainty about the potential prospect of my future. The message that I am beginning to sense from the Parole Board is that all of my sincere, hard work and efforts committed towards being a better human being is simply in vain. Nevertheless, still I choose to work towards being a better human being.

It is apparent to me that the Parole Board has chosen to only see me through eyes of the past, a part of me that no longer exists. This is reflected in their rationale for not.granting me parole release thus far. While it is not an easy task learning to become a better human being in a negative and abnormal setting, I can honestly say that I have achieved that goal.

For the past fourteen (14) years I have worked very hard toward improving my personal growth and development. Which I have proven by my actions and not just in words. I have taken and completed several treatment programs over years past as well as present; Breaking Barriers, Anger Management, Problem solving skills, Thinking For A Change, as well as P.R.E.P.'s. Each of these programs has been instrumental in helping me to become the person that I am today. Programs in prison really do work, if the individual is receptive to them, and I have been.

Out of the twenty-six (26) years that I have been confined thus far, I can honestly say that I have successfully maintained employment for at least twenty-two (22) of those years. Where I have learned marketable job skills and gained work experience, which I am still continuing to do.

I am currently working for Virginia Correctional Enterprise, sheet metal/wood shop. I am employed as an edge-band operator. I operate a very sensitive and dangerous piece of machinery. It is the most expensive machine in the shop, at a cost of over $700,000. I have also been employed with Virginia Correctional Enterprise at Nottoway Correctional Center in 2006 in their wood shop and at Augusta Correctional Center in 2007 in their tailor shop.

You can see that I have been very busy and productive during the course of my incarceration thus far. I have also worked for Food Service at four (4) different institutions: Greensville Correctional Center in 1991, Red Onion State Prison in 2000-2001, Nottoway Correctional Center in 2005-2006, and Pocahontas Correctional Center in 2012-2013, where I managed to pick up valuable work skills.

I have even held down a supervisory position of employment (Building Assistant) at Green Rock Correctional Center from 2013-2015. Where I was responsible for thirty-two (32) inmate workers, ensuring that they completed their assigned duties as pod workers.

I have also successfully completed a number of vocational courses that I have earned certificates for: C.A.D.D. (Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, 2013-2014); Custodial Maintenance, 2000-2001; Basic Computer Concepts, 2014-2015. While I am not currently licensed, I am a skilled Barber as well. As you can see, I am equipped with employable job skills and training.

I love and adore and miss my family immensely, as they do me. My mother is now sixty-six (66) years of age, a devout Christian and law abiding citizen. I haven't seen her in thirty (30) years. She has been very supportive throughout my incarceration thus far. My sister is forty (40) years of age now. I haven't seen her in twenty-four (24) years, and she too, is a good Christian and law abiding citizen, and has been supportive as well. My brother is forty-five (45) years of age; I haven't seen him since 1978. He is currently incarcerated in Massachusetts. We are close and have been in contact throughout my incarceration thus far. I don't have any children, but I still have aspirations of.someday having a family of my own.

My family has suffered a great deal in my absence in their lives during the course of my incarceration, and I have felt terrible for putting them through this and not being able to support them in some capacity at times when they may have needed it.

With all due respect, I would like to believe that all of the Parole Board members, have the intelligible ability to recognize and believe that there is a good chance that after an individual has served over twenty-five (25) years of prison time, that he or she has had to have made positive adjustments in their overall behavior.

What I would like for you as well as the Parole Board Members to know and understand is that, the individual that I once was no longer exists and hasn't for a long time now. The person that committed those offenses twenty-six (26) years ago deserved the punishment that he received; the man that they're continuing to punish today, with their decision each year to not grant parole release is truly a better human being. This human being is undoubtedly on the right track and plans to stay there. All of the tools (Coping Skills, Job Skills, and Problem Solving Skills) that I absolutely lacked prior to my incarceration; I have them tenfold now. I love the person that I am today, there's no way that I could have said that in the past.

If the Parole Board members would just take a look at who I am today, and not continue to judge me solely on my past, just maybe they will see more parts of the whole of me beyond my past errors.

I made some very bad choices twenty-six (26) years ago, and I am sincerely sorry for them and everyone that was affected by them. The victims as well as my family, neither of them deserved to suffer due to my actions. For that I am absolutely, wholeheartedly sorry to
all of them.

In any event I felt compelled to share my heartfelt concerns with you, because I don't ever get the opportunity to see or speak with any of the Parole Board Members. I understand that it is the Parole Reviewer's position to interpret and convey to Parole Board Members, my sentiments upon his review of my hearing. However, However, with all due respective, I don't believe that the reviewer can truly convey to the members of the Parole Board my true feelings and emotions and overall concerns. The honest reality is that the Parole Reviewer doesn't represent me, and I don't expect him, or her to emote my feelings and concerns to the Parole Board Members the way that I would if I were before them myself.

So again I ask, can you please tell me what more can I do to prove that after twenty-six (26) years of confinement thus far, that I am truly a good candidate for parole release?

In closing, please allow me to add, I hope that you don't in any way misconstrue the content in my letter as being anything other than an individual who has arguably learned through trial and error, and is simply interested in moving forward with his life beyond the past and these prison gates. 

Thank you for your time and patience.

Roger E. Forbes

Here's a link to more posts on parole reform and how to contact the Governor's office, the Parole Board and the Secretary of Public Safety:
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