Saturday, August 6, 2016

Guest Post: "Virginia's Prisons - No Place For Those 65 And Older"

Mr. Charles, Zellers, Sr., is on the front and left
Here's a thoughtful piece by Mr. Charles, Zellers, Sr., a Virginia inmate and a tireless advocate for those deserving geriatric release:

I've been incarcerated over 23 years and I've met some amazing elderly men. I'm 48 years old and I have two sons and one grandson, but many of my elderly friends here are greatgrandfathers or even great-greatgrandparents.

When an individual commits crimes, the first thing society wants to do is lock them up and throw away the key. Even those who once were their friend, neighbor or someone everyone in the community liked. 

Shouldn't citizens and professionals be looking at factors contributing to people's crimes? I agree for some individuals their offense is a sickness or pure evil, but not for all. Some were overly stressed by family or work issues or were on drugs or alcohol. This is not to excuse their behavior, but the criminal justice system should not classify all criminals as the same even though the law that was broken was the same. Each case and sentence should be looked at on an individual basis.

I personally know 38 older men here and many others I've met throughout the past 23 years who are deserving of release and are at minimal or no risk of reoffending.. The only thing I ask of society is to give them their freedom, and to help them obtain clothing, employment, food, medical services, medication, and shelter after their release. 

I know prisoners who refuse parole because they have lost all of their family support systems and do not choose to be a burden on their children, etc. They say they will be in debt as soon as they step out of prison and they have little or no money saved up for their future. Many have not paid in the required amount to receive social security because they were denied parole past age 65. Some are still ready and able to work and would be dedicated to work hard and show up for work every day.

Currently inmates who are ordered by medical to have ambulatory devices (such as canes, walkers, etc.) or who are legally blind are being transferred from here. We are unsure what they will face in the prisons to which they are being transferred.

Are second chances out of the question for geriatric prisoners? Are they being discriminated against solely because their age, or for crimes that are on their record from their distant past? Why are model prisoners repeatedly denied parole release even though they are eligible according to Virginia law and have met every requirement possible?

By Charles Zellers, Buckingham Correctional Center, Dilwyn, VA

Here's a link to more of Charles's personal story. He is not yet eligible for geriatric release but was recently denied discretionary parole for the eighth time:
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