To Whom This May Concern,
First and foremost, we would like to thank you for taking the time to read this open letter
Just that within itself is appreciated immensely, because there are many other who perhaps may
Feel it wouldn’t be worth their time and effort to do so. This letter is our form of honest
Expression with the intention of conveying, in the best way possible the sense of helplessness
And hopelessness as an individual feels when confined for a significant length of time with no end or relief in sight. We are writing this not just to represent ourselves, but all of those who are caught in the web of a broken judicial system. With all of us having been incarcerated for over ten years, we have seen that “true justice” usually belongs to those who can financially afford freedom and to those who can tell the most believable story. Regardless of it, their story is true or not. To paraphrase, this is a quote from the television show “61st”
“The justice system is not broken it works the way it was intended to work by those who
For those not familiar with this television series; during the first season, a black track athlete,
Who in school goes to jail and is put on trial for accidentally killing a police officer he was seeing
From out of fear because they assumed he was part of a situation involving a crooked cop
Shooting another individual that had nothing to do with him. Although the show is a work of
Fiction, there were many very real elements to it that really only showed the tip of the iceberg of
Issues when it comes to african-Americans, law enforcement, and the justice system as a whole.
For us who have participated in every program available and taken as many steps as we are
Able to rehabilitate and mature ourselves under these conditions,what is the next step? What
type of filtering system Is In place within the Missouri Department of Corrections to separate 1 )
those who are truly dedicated to becoming productive members of society, from 2) those who Just Don’t care, when It comes to deciding who Is deserving of a second actiance? It Is easy for one on the outside looking In to say, “Keep the faith. ..”, or to find reasons to justify Ignoring the Issues of Injustice and prison overcrowding all together; but for the one who Is constantly faced with the dayto-day struggle of finding a purpose and something to live for that keeps them putting one foot In front of the other. It Is a constant battle within our minds and hearts. Remaining positive Is a fight all In Itself while enduring constant heartache, regrets, loneliness, depression, thoughts of suicide and regression back Into old addictions, etc. People change. . . people die.. . friendships and relationships fade… we lose hair. . . lose teeth. . . lose sleep. . . lose peace. E-malls, pictures, videos, and visits offer brief bursts of happiness that soon whittier away once the realization sinks In that we cannot enjoy these moments of life with the loved ones on the other end. Not to mention, each available form of connecting with those we care about has a price-tag attached to It; even e-malls which one does not have to pay for In the free world. Many of the lost souls warehoused within these facilities have no vision, no faith, no support from the free world, and are just living day to day going through the motions. . . all searching for some form of happiness, however temporary It may be. Some turn to God, while others use drugs, food, sleep, sex, gambling or a number of other things as their escape from the constant stress, depression, frustration, and overall sense of being broken. . . unlovable. . . and less than human. The perpetual “Groundhog’s Day” effect causes many to spiral downwards further and further Into despair while days turn Into weeks, then months, then years. For many, death Is the only thing they feel that they have to look toward that will end the agony of being trapped In the darkness with no light at the end of the tunnel .
Imagine being called In from your job one day to find out that your mother or father has passed on, and combine that with not being able to attend the funeral or even having the ability to get physical copies of pictures of your loved one or an actual obituary due to all Incoming persOnal mall being scanned In and turned Into digital versions compatible with the tablets they h3v’e provided you with. Imagine finally being able to talk to your hospitalized grandmother over the phone for the first time In over 10 years and having to constantly be Interrupted by the prerecorded messages and cut the conversation short because the phone cuts off after 20 minutes. Imagine waiting on an Important piece of mall from the courts and missing a deadline because the C.O. wasn’t paying attention and gave your mall to the wrong person. Imagine being forced to choose between buying enough food or enough hygiene from the commissary to last the month beCause your regular paycheck for your prison job Isn’t enough to pay for a good amount of both and the food !n the chow ha!! often makes you sick because sometimes it is expired or isn’t cooked properly. Imagine getting your first visit since being locked up for 2٥ years, and not being able to actually go to the visiting room and see the person because a group of individuals started fighting in a different housing unit and they locked the camp down. Imagine doing the best you can to show good behavior and not get into trouble for the entire time that you’ve been incarcerated only to get a 5-year setback when you go up to see the parole board. These are all very real situations that we have to endure while continuing to fight for our freedom.
We are not taking away from the fact that those of us who committed crimes deserve to be
Punished, but to what degree? As a whole, more emphasis is placed on how much money can be made off of us than on actually rehabilitating and preparing us for re-release back into society. Many of the materials used for teaching purposes in classes and programs are vastly outdated (some programs actually still use VHS tapes and VCR’S). So, why not provide some updated material that we can use to better ourselves? To Those of us with significant amounts of time to do on our sentences, there is no real incentive to sign up for these programs (other than wanting to better ourselves) because of the fact that regardless of how exemplary our record while in prison is, we are still treated as if no changes have been made in our thinking and behavior. Our level of rehabilitation does not currently affect the amount of time we have to do: regardless of how far removed we are from the state of mind we were In when we committed our crimes. It is even worse for those of us who are actually innocent
Because while incarcerated we are still subjected to these inhumane conditions coupled with having to deal with the forced integration with those who are determined to continue on their
Paths of chaos and destruction. In a world where we are often either left to police ourselves
Or be grouped with the whole (in terms of punishment and regardless of if we have any involvement or not) little to no effort is made by the judicial system to highlight and assist those of us who stand out from the crowd in term of positive accomplishments and behavior to regain
Our freedom. At best we are heralded as “model inmates”. This leads to killing two birds with one stone”financially;because the ones who do not work to rehabilitate themselves and are the
Most likely to reoffend are released and eventually end up back in prison, and those of us who are the least likely to come back are kept behind bars so that the system can continue to make money for us… or so it seems. What conclusion would you draw if you knew playing literal word games to get incarcerated individuals to say certain words or phrases;while said incarcerated individuals
Are they desperately trying to regain their freedom? (A real situation that was exposed amongst certain individuals on the missouri board of probation and parole)
This speaks worlds of how human lives, our lives, are viewed by this system! And Just think about how much freedom they would need in their minds to do as they wish with people’s lives like that. Is this not the same type of thinking that led us to be incarcerated in the first place – making somebody into something? A very flawed and dangerous thinking ate that! And if we’re
Working so hard to correct thinking errors on us? It is clear that giving people a second chance
That are truly working toward it is not of much concern to some of those placed in positions of power and have the ability to promote real change, as far as the justice system is concerned
The system is called the “department of corrections”.but what is it actually correcting?at the long
Closed Missouri state penitentiary facility,(A.K.A “the old walls”) there was a sign above where prisoners first came in that said “Leave your hopes and dreams behind”. For those who have had to survive this ordeal, many have taken that phrase to heart. It is apparent in heads hung low…the slumped shoulders… the lifeless shuffle of boots on unpolished floors going to and from work and medical appointments… the dull pallor on the expressionless faces of those who are lost in thought…perhaps thinking back to better times in their lives when life was full of beauty and wonder, or of experiences with loved ones who are long gone. I use the word “survive”. Because those who have “life”, “life without parole”. And other harsh sentences with the 85% stipulation attached to it are in essence being given extended death sentences. The justice system has committed us to hospice care because we are dying slow deaths.many of those who actually live long enough to see freedom have little to no real life, job or social skill that are transferable to society because many of the beneficial job training sites and reintegration classes are allotted to the lower-level camps for guys who are considered “short-timers”. The vast majority of the lost souls here are simply living, but are not alive; they
Have no hope, no faith, and are just enduring the perpetual “Groundhog’s Day’ effect of participating in the same mundane day-to-day activities for days… weeks..months…year on end.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
In order to change the system, it takes real action and an honest effort from those who truly
Care about giving chances to incarcerated individuals who are really working toward it attention
Has to be brought to the fact that there are a number of individuals, both males and females,
Behind bars who are doing everything in their power to show that they can and will be assets and productive member of society if released; but many of them feel invisible because they are
Often lost in the crowd and do not have the right people behind them and/or financial resources
To afford post-conviction lawyers. There also has to be a major push those with lesser crimes,
That are contingent upon individuals showing high levels of personal growth and rehabilitation during their incarceration. There would be a tremendous change in the morale amongst prisoners if they knew for a fact that their institutional record could affect their sentencing. There must also be more emphasis placed on using current technology to exonerate individuals who have been wrongly convicted. We are in desperate need of aid and assistance on all fronts. We refuse to give up or be broken because we strongly believe that enduring trials and tribulations increases spiritual faith and strengthens character. An individual’s sight and vision will not always be In alignment. One’s sight Includes ‘the things that stand before them such as the obstacles, challenges, harriers, etc. . . but their vision is the thing that motivates them to push
Forward and keep moving even when they are in their darkest hour because they know deep
Down inside there is something on the other side worth fighting for even, even if they cannot see it yet, that will make all of the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
As stated before, are men pushing not for our own freedom, but to show that within these dwellings there are individuals who are worth fighting for. The only limits a person has are the ones that they place on themselves, and we are striving to continue to place our faith in God that he will guide our steps as we venture into the unknown and place the right people and tools
In our path that will aid us at this difficult point of our life’s journeys. We would like to thank you in advance, again, for taking the time to read this letter, and also for any assistance you may be
Able to offer…even if it is no more than simply taking the time to respond and offering words of positivity and wisdom. The smallest gesture is much appreciated, and the more people are on board with moving things in the right direction the closer we will get to actually changing the department of corrections for the better. Thank you for your time and consideration. Our names
And respective contact information are located below.
Rashad EI #1179337
C/O Digital mail center-missouri DOC
P.O. Box 25678 tampa, FL 33622-5678
FROM:Antwan Johnson #524659
C/O Digital Mail Center- Missouri DOC
P.O Box 25678
Tampa, FL 33622-5678
Steve Chipman #1157269
C/O Digital Mail Center- Missouri DOC
P.O Box 25678
Tampa, FL 33622-5678