Sunday, May 17, 2015

Inmate writes: "I don't know what else I can do"

Coffeewood Correctional Center, Culpeper County, VA
Nathaniel Painter, 73, a native of Winchester, Virginia, has been in the Virginia prison system for over 20 years. He has been infraction free for decades and is eligible for both parole (under the pre-1995 law) and for release under the Geriatric Release Statute.

This spring, Mr. Painter was turned down for release for the 13th time, in spite of the following:

• He met all of the requirements for his entire treatment plan in 1997 and has completed three additional programs and taken four vocational classes since being incarcerated.

• His institutional parole representative has met with the Parole Board three times on his behalf.

• The Winchester City Sheriff has met with the Board three times in support of his release.

• Multiple members of his family, his church family and his friends have met with the Board in his support, along with his former supervisors at his place of employment.

• He received nearly 50 Christmas cards in 2014 from people who would welcome his return to his community.

Meanwhile, The Department of Corrections has the benefit of having an older person of character who has a stabilizing influence in the facility, a valued worker they need to pay less than $1 an hour, and someone for whom the US Treasury doesn't need to pay any Social Security income.

His most recent computer-generated rejection letter, mechanically signed by the chair of the Parole Board, was like that of countless others, listing the following kinds of reasons which the inmate is powerless to do anything about: 

■ Release at this time would diminish the seriousness of the crime;

■ The board considers you a risk to the community;

■ Serious nature and circumstances of your offense[s];

■ The board concludes that you should serve more of your sentence prior to release on parole.

In this way, the Parole Board is addressing the issue of the original conviction, acting in both a judicial and legislative capacity, rather than actually judging the person's behavior since being incarcerated, which is their primary mandate.

If the purpose of the Department of Corrections is to "correct" rather than to simply punish, then inmates like Mr. Painter could be a poster child celebrating the DOC's success.

If you agree with the above concerns about parole, express them to your State Senator, State Delegate, and to the following:

Ms. Adrienne Bennett, chair
Virginia Parole Board
6900 Atmore Drive
Richmond, VA 23225
(804) 674-3081


The Honorable Terrence McAuliffe, Governor
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, Third Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

The Honorable Brian Moran
Secretary of Public Safety
Patrick Henry Building, Third Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Here's a link to some more posts on parole reform.
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