I was convicted by a jury of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 58 years without the possibility of parole with a mandate I serve a minimum of 85% of that sentence. Those collateral mandates of my sentence were the result of a policy known as “Truth In Sentencing” (TIS). The concept of TIS was first legislated during the Reagan era as part of the 1984 ‘Sentencing Reform Act’. The law phased out the Federal Parole System, created the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and mandated that Federal Inmates serve a minimum 85% of their sentence. Ten (10) years later Democrats under the direction of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden created the 1994 ‘Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act’ which created grants for States that adopted TIS laws. Those grants, ° The Truth In Sentencing Grant and °The Violent Crime Grant, funded personnel increases at police departments and prison construction. In 1995 Virginia adopted what it called it’s TIS package which included 4 laws.
a. 53.1-165.1 Abolishing Parole for persons convicted of a felony after January 1, 1995
b.53.1-202.2 Mandating that anyone convicted of a felony after January 1,.1995 serve a min. of 85% of their sentence by establishing new “good time credit” system.
c. 53.1-40.01 Geriatric release which allows persons age 60 who’ve served a min. of 10years or age 65 who’ve served a min of 5years to apply for compassionate release.
d. The establishment of “The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission” and “Uniform Sentencing Guidelines.”
If we are going to reform this draconian policy than we need to begin by attacking the Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act aka “The Crime Bill.” Joe Biden drafted this legislation and so since he wants to exploit racial justice let us exploit his opportunism by calling him out for the Crime Bill’s consequences. Next, in the state of Virginia we have to call out the contradiction that is Geriatric Parole which allows “compassionate release to the elderly no matted what they’re crimes but punishes guys for committing crimes when younger. Right now all things begin the same between an 18 & 60 year old with 50 yeas the 18yr old becomes eligible for parole in 42years where the 60year old becomes eligible in 5years! Makes no since and violates the 14th Amendment!! Also, Obviously no parole in Virginia disproportionately impacts New Afrikan communities. So the data must be complied and the polemics created! Begin with the report recently put out by Northam’s Racial Justice Committee headed by Cynthia Hudson. Moreover, make the historical connection between the 13th Amendment and the Ongoing Mass Incarceration of New Afrikans here in Virginia beginning in the 1870’s. From the moment enslaved Afrikans were freed in VA they were considered a threat and criminalized. The structural racism ingrained in the Black Codes exists in the current TIS policies. We must also attack this notion that this policy is effective in decreasing violence. Which means Violent Crime like the so called “Violent Criminal” must be redefined. Very few acts of violence are the result of some sort of violent crime spree by innately violence individuals. The argument must be had about the social role of violence and it’s intersection with poverty, racism, misogyny, and capitalism. Violence is the symptom not the disease and it’s always about Power- Even when it appears not to be!! The Violent Criminal who’s black is punished much more harshly than those who are white and this is structural because many judges see young black males as “dangerous.” This is reinforced with TI$ policy because there’s no room for redemption with the New Afrikan sentenced to an exorbitant sentence whereas the white with a manageable sentence will serve their sentence and be released!
In conclusion as a prison abolitionist nothing would please me more than a collective action to completely disrupt & dismantled the prison industrial complex, but until there’s a critical mass with the consciousness to recognize their own power behind the walls we absolutely MUST use reformist tactics. Many people in here are suffering and could care less about our idealistic prefigurations!! So to all in the struggle I say onward to Freedom! In Solidarity…