Thursday, December 8, 2016

Please Free Deserving Ex-Offenders

There is virtually no precedent in history for confining people in steel and concrete cages for life, a practice that is in many ways as cruel as a death sentence. The following was recently sent to me by an inmate at Buckingham Correctional Center:

Dear Governor Terrance McAuliffe:

Annually the President of the United States pardons turkeys. Why can't you as the Governor of Virginia pardon some humans who have proven that they are rehabilitated? Shouldn't it be considered unjust to continue to keep individuals incarcerated once they have successfully completed their DOC mandated education, programs, and vocational trades and are no longer a substantial risk to the community? 

Code of Virginia section 53.1-155 states that a thorough investigation will be made by the Parole Board of an inmate's history, physical/mental condition, character, conduct, employment and attitude while in prison. 

Here are just a few parole eligible prisoners who were sentenced prior to the January 1, 1995 implementation of Virginia's "No Parole" law and who continue to receive "Not Grant" reports from the Virginia Parole Board.

1). RONALD ANTHONY BLAIR, #1137599 - born, c. 1957 - incarcerated in 1987. Mr. Blair, housed in the Honor Housing Unit, has been a model prisoner throughout his incarceration.

2). ROBERT DAVIS FITCHETT, JR., #1035660 - born, September 29, 1963 - Mr. Fitchett was fifteen years young when he committed his crime in 1979 and was sentenced to two life sentences plus 21 years, but with the prospect of earning early parole release. The judge who sentenced him said that if he did well in prison he would "soon be able to walk the streets again". As you can see, this is not the case. Robert's family and lawyer saw the board on Tuesday the 5th of July and on Sunday the 10th of July their "Not Grant" decision was made which left only three working days to investigate his case. Robert has not received an infraction in approximately twenty-five (25) years, but each time the Board receives a victim impact statement, he automatically receives a three-year deferral (7-consecutive which equals 21 years) regardless of what Robert has achieved while incarcerated. Robert has been a model prisoner, having been housed for years in an Honor Housing Unit and has worked over twelve years for Virginia Correctional Enterprises at Buckingham.

3). RONALD GRIFFIN, #1165808 - born, c. 1962. Mr. Griffin has also been a model prisoner throughout his incarceration.

4). KENNETH RAY PACK, #1063808 - born, March 18, 1950, incarcerated since 1991. Mr. Pack has likewise been a model prisoner throughout his incarceration.

5). CLARENCE DUKE REYNOLDS, #1174999 - born, June 26, 1949. Mr. Reynolds committed his crime January 21, 1991. He has worked as the Chaplains Assistant and Clerk for numerous years, and is a model prisoner.

6). MINOR JUNIOR SMITH, #1158588 - born, May 3, 1946. Mr. Smith, legally Blind since the age of five, committed his crime in August 24, 1971. He is the author of an autobiography, "ABUSED", and writes poetry about his abuse as a child and his many years of mental, physical and sexual abuse since his incarceration. He is a certified Braille transcriber and has has been a model prisoner throughout the 45 years he has been incarcerated.

7). JENS SOERING, #1161655 - born c. 1966. Mr. Soering, originally from Germany is an award-winning author of nine books he's written while incarcerated  He insists he is innocence, and the primary investigator of his criminal case now agrees in light of recently uncovered new evidence. He too has been a model prisoner throughout his incarceration. 

8). ALLAN NOAH SPITZER, JR., #1110939 - born, June 20, 1949. Mr. Spitzer was arrested for aiding and abetting a murder and robbery in 1985. Allan is also a model prisoner and a trusted worker with Virginia Correctional Enterprises as a shipping clerk.

9). CHARLES EDWARD ZELLERS, SR., #1036758 - born April 10, 1968. Mr. Zellers accepted an Alford Plea and has been incarcerated since January 24, 1993. Charles is also a model prisoner and has worked for Virginia Correctional Enterprises for numerous years as a supervisor in the T-molding/Table Top and Open Plan Systems Department. He would like to have a statewide database kept with jail and prison inmates complaints and grievances listed. Charles has a passion for making Virginia a better state through the treatment and through computer, job and vocational training, and has educated school students about crime, laws and punishment. This is his first time in prison.

I pray that you will require the parole board members to have compassion and start granting parole to the old-law discretionary eligible prisoners who have successfully completed their DOC mandated treatment and have proven while incarcerated to no longer being a threat to their communities. The parole grant rate in 1994 was around 44% and now it is only 1 or 2 %. Why pay millions of dollars annually to keep "corrected" inmates in prison?


A Virginia inmate

Note: The Parole Board's October release rate was a mere 8 inmates of over 200 cases reviewed for the state's Department of Corrections. A Department of Education with that kind of graduation rate would be considered a total failure.

Here's a link to contact the governor:

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