Sunday, May 14, 2017

If Someone Like #1036758 Isn't Parole-able, Is Our "Department of Corrections" A Failure?

Charles Zellers (right) is a tireless advocate for prison reform.
Mr. Charles Zellers, Sr., entered a plea agreement for a crime he was charged with in 1993 with the assurance that if he did well in prison he could possibly be out on parole in seven years. Yet in spite of his near perfect prison record he has been denied parole repeatedly, but is up for another parole hearing later this month. 

If someone like Zellers, a prime example of the kind of rehabilitation the DOC is designed to bring about, is not considered parole eligible, how can we believe our Department of Corrections actually "corrects"?

Here is a letter he wrote recently to the Parole Board:

Virginia Parole Board
Adrianne Bennett, Chair
6900 Atmore Drive
Richmond, Virginia 23944

May 1, 2017

Charles E. Zellers, Sr., #1036758
Buckingham Correctional Center
Post Office Box 430
Dillwyn, Virginia 23936

To all Parole Board Members :

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health. 

I spoke with Ms. Bennett when she visited Buckingham Correctional Center's Sheet Metal Shop with Lieutenant Ruby Call. Ms. Trudy Harris and she walked through the Shop talking with parole-eligible workers. 

We still reminisce about how they were both shocked to learn that offenders who had committed violent crimes were employed at Virginia Correctional Enterprises where they are allowed to use computers, machinery and tools. Because they have long-term prison sentences, these prisoners are VCE's main workers. The short-timers do not take their jobs as seriously because they know they will be returning to society soon. 

This is why it is important that Board members should contact Correctional Officers, Staff and VCE Supervisors when applicable. They know more about us parole-eligible offenders' characters because they are the ones who interact with us on a day-to-day basis, not the higher ranking officials above Sergeants. We rarely see them. 

I have been employed by Virginia Correctional Enterprises, Buckingham Sheet Metal Shop, since October 2006 and have been a Lead-man since January 2007.Please view my criminal history and you will see that I am not a career criminal, nor do I have a criminal mindset.

Following a 4/7/2017 Good Time Level and Administrative Review by Institutional Classification Authority, George M. Walker recommended that I remain in Class Level 3-L1 with 100 points due to my Full Annual Treatment compliance. This is currently the lowest security level that I can be housed at based on my sentence per DOC policy. Also, the 2017 COMPAS test that was administered by my case manager reveals that I am a low risk for violence or recidivism.

Despite the many factors that make prison an ineffective setting for rehabilitation, I have adapted, overcome and achieved my ultimate goal: to prepare myself for a successful reentry into society.

Unlike the majority of the prison population, lifers like me are statistically less likely to reoffend. Studies have shown that people age out of crime and individuals age forty and older pose a very low risk of committing new crimes. I've even noticed myself during my sentence that once an inmate has served ten consecutive years, they start to settle down. If one has served twenty years or more productive years in prison, then chances are they will be the same upon release as long as they have housing and a job if needed.

As you already know, I've been incarcerated since January 24, 1993. I am not writing you to plead my case today but to ask that you find me suitable to return to my loved ones in society.

I have always tried to do what was right and just during my incarceration, and I will continue to do so upon release. I have been eligible for release on discretionary parole since July 30, 2005.

Please see me for who I am today and not who I was said to be over two decades ago. Look for what I've done to grow from behind bars to prepare for my successful reentry. I haven't had a rule violation since March 2000.

I'm a son, brother; father, grandfather - and I hurt, feel, love and bleed, just like everyone else. I'm pleading with you for forgiveness and for another chance at freedom. To be remembered for something good in my life is very important to me and is one of my main goals. I'm not exactly sure what I will be doing upon release, but rest assured it will be positive for me, my family, and the community in which I will be living. I am leaning towards starting my own business and I see myself helping the elderly in the community that I will be living in.

I have demonstrated that I'm not a danger to public safety, and I'm genuinely remorseful for my role in the loss of a human life.

I will also be attending religious services once I'm released and find the appropriate church to attend. Fellowship with my Christian brothers will be another important goal I set out to achieve upon my release.

If you would like more information about me, please meet with me and/or contact the following people who interact with me often.

My Mother - Mrs. Judy M. Zellers, (434) 676-8094
Note: My mother is in bad health and urgently requires my assistance at home. On May 18th, her cardiologist wants to stop her heart and restart it to reset the rhythm.

My Sister - Cynthia "Zellers" Settle, (434) 676-8094

My Friend/Mentor - Pastor and Licensed Counselor - Mr. Harvey Yoder. (540) 432-0531
Note: We have been interacting via email, letters and phone for several years.

VCE Supervisor - Mr. John Herndon
Note: I've been working for him since October 2006.

VCE Secretary - Mrs. Julia Ragland, (434) 983-4473
Note: I've been working for her since 2010.

If by chance you do not see me as a suitable candidate to be granted parole release this year, even though VDOC deems that I have completed full annual compliance of my treatment, please list what goals I should complete prior to me being seen by the parole examiner next year.

Thank you for your time, efforts and all consideration. If you require more information, please contact me. I give you my word that I will not let you, my loved ones or myself down.

Respectfully requested,

Charles E. Zellers, Sr.

P.S. For your information, I'm also considered Chronic Care Medical.

For more links associated with Mr. Zellers see
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