All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Thursday, October 11, 2018

More than one reason why old-timers should be released!

Denials are arriving by the boatload in the Michigan prison system. Many inmates who deserve a second chance are not being considered for clemency by Governor Snyder. And that’s a shame.

Darnell Epps, student at Cornell University who served 17 years for a violent crime, wrote a great op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled: The Prison ‘Old-Timers’ Who Gave Me Life. “Aging inmates,” he said, “some serving life sentences, helped me turn my life around.” His next sentence is important: They could do even more good on the outside.”

We’re tough on crime in Michigan! We like to “throw away the key.” Right now more than 8% of Michigan prisoners are 60 and older…some 75 of them over the age of 80!

Our friend Doug, age 54, who has served 33 years, has had the door slam shut on every opportunity for reentry into society, and that saddens us. A teacher, mentor, and a person who has done so much good behind bars, he deserves a new crack at freedom. Besides that, he could do even more good on the outside!

In a rare rant this week, he said,

“When this place opened I worked around Ed Rozek. His comment about the MDOC erring by keeping people too long is something I'm only really appreciating now, 23 years later. He said most guys steadily improve, but rather than release at the peak, the State keeps people not only when they plateau out, but start sliding back downhill, having given up on all the rhetoric about second chances. With decades served and no end in sight, Ed's observation has finally sunk in. Now don't fret that I'm on some downward spiral of despair, but at the same time I'm not going to pretend this disillusionment with a system I've wanted to believe in despite the growing evidence to the contrary doesn't hurt. A large part of my joining the Marines was because I really believed in America being the best country of all time, that a person really could be whatever they want, and, yes, second chances even for screw-ups were available. Far too idealistic for my age and circumstance, I admit, but up to now it's gotten me through this sentence. Now, my idealism is gone, replaced with resignation. I still don't want to ever use the word "unfair!" given what I did to get myself here, but, well, damn, in a fair, objective review I can't help but think I'd finally get to go home before any more of my family passes away from old age.”

Says Darnell Epps: We must seriously consider whether society would benefit by letting reformed offenders re-enter their community, and whether it’s economical and humane to punish solely for the sake of retribution. When I hear of all the gun violence on Chicago’s South Side, for instance, I can’t help wondering what would happen if Illinois’s many reformed old-timers, who hail from those neighborhoods, were granted parole with a mission of working to reduce the violence. It’s not unreasonable to think they’d have a better chance of reaching the younger generation than the local police or federal law enforcement.

One shameful certainty: It won’t be happening in Michigan!


Robert Bulten said...

Thanks, Doug, for another peek at the sad reality of our criminal "justice" system

Unknown said...

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is working with a handful of "old timers," who not only could be contributing to the outside but also didn't commit the crime they are serving time for.

Unknown said...

As someone who was recently released from the MDOC after serving 48 years, I've witnessed up close and personal the impact I'm having on my Community. This Younger Generation believes my Tenure behind bars is a Badge of Honor. I correct this perception indirectly by sharing and Showcasing my Journey. I don't Preach......I listen and answer questions......and offer them advice when its requested. I can't count the times when during one of these conversations, I would think.......I wish so & so was out to share his story or discuss this topic. There is an Army of both Women and Men Convicted Felons currently serving time, many for decades, who should be released, and would have such a powerful impact. To be fair Governor Rick Synder has been more aggressive then Former Governor's in creating an Atmosphere that will allow more Old Timer's their release, but more needs to be done. The business of Revenge doesn't work and only does greater harm to the State. People CHANGE.....both in and out of Prison.