Posts tagged ‘criminal justice system’

December 11, 2013

Maurice Clarett: ESPN Interview

This excellent interview with former football star for The Ohio State University, Maurice Clarett, aired on ESPN radio’s SVP & Russillo Show on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

Here’s the link to the program: SVP & Russillo.

It was heartening to hear Clarett describe the positive life changes he has adopted since his prison sentence ended not long ago. Talk about transformation and healthy life-choices made in recent years: the former thug and potential N.F.L. star spelled out the positive changes he’s embraced that can be traced back to the sequence of infractions and crimes that culminated in his prison sentence.

During his football heyday at O.S.U., Clarett was involved in multiple questionable life-choices, which endangered not only the lives of others around him but his own life.

Clarett very capably describes the moments when the fortress of collegiate stardom came tumbling down. This is a must-listen-to segment. Cudos to Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Russillo for inviting Clarett into the ESPN studio.

Clarett is featured in the upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 series documentary, “Youngstown Boys.”  The documentary airs Saturday, December 14.

 

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July 20, 2013

MY TIME – Column by Melissa Vanover

 

Before my incarceration, I was not very educated. I dropped out of school in the eighth grade to give birth to my daughter. After that, my life eventually spiraled out of control and into a life of organized crime: fast cars and even faster men.

All I had wanted was a better life for my children than I had at that time. I seemed to make all the wrong choices. I put myself and my children in dangerous situations. I simply wasn’t thinking! I was too caught up in the “good life,” the life of the world. That world ended up being not so good afterall. It was a lifestyle that led me to prison to serve a sentence of 25-years to life.

Since my incarceration, I have grown up a lot in these past 15 years. I finally earned my G.E.D. and completed several group programs to help better understand myself; these programs included topics and experiences covering “Who am I,” depression, self-discipline, victim’s awareness, eating disorders, “Cage of Rage,” and “Thinking for a Change.”

I have also increased my occupational skills. Although not licensed, I have become quite the “handywoman.” I have done plumbing and general maintenance, such as building things and repairing just about anything, painting, and laying tile. I can drive a forklift and I can weld.

For the past year and a half, I’ve had on-the-job training as an electrician, which is something I absolutely love. My crew saved the state of Ohio thousands of dollars by taking on the project of wiring and putting up security cameras in all the housing units. It has been great experiences to have under my belt.

I can also operate a ‘scissor lift’ and I have had the exhausting opportunity of using a jack hammer when tearing up and replacing a concrete step. Doing all this hard work has humbled me.

I attended church at home years ago. But I was never serious about it. Again, as I’ve written before, I had my spiritual breakthrough in 2001. Now, I’m serious about my salvation, and I know I’m not perfect and I do fall short sometimes. I fight it, but God knows I’m worth it. And I’m so thankful that He will never give up on me. I just need to learn to be more like Him and less like “myself,” and that I should never give up on Him.

February 11, 2013

WOOF! (by Patricia N. Wernert)

“How would you like a puppy?” I was asked. Sounds like a pretty straightforward question that is posed everywhere. I would like to share why that very question was anything but ordinary when I was asked it in the early 1990s.

In 1993, I had been incarcerated 18 years and certainly had not experienced the touch of silky ears or big brown eyes looking at me during this time. I was being offered the unique opportunity of helping to start a prison program of raising puppies for “Pilot Dog.” As puppy raisers, we receive eight-week-old to raise as potential service dogs for visually impaired individuals. In my mind, gosh, what a great opportunity to give back to others.

Puppies require care, love, and gentle direction in learning basic commands. Prison rules put a good deal of added structure into what is usually easy. My puppy may need to “go potty,” but if it is “count time” the puppy has to wait. Try explaining that to an eight-week-old puppy in the middle of the night.

The upside of doing something like this is watching and guiding the tiny puppy as it grows into a beautiful dog. Your time and hard work develop before your eyes. No matter how bad a day you may have, you have to smile at the antics of a puppy. You start smiling, your mood improves, and you respond in a positive manner with other inmates or staff.

One of the few things a person in prison has any control over is how she or he reacts to any situation. Inmates are told when to go to bed, to get up, to perform bodily functions, to go eat, what to eat, what to wear, and what to do in about all aspects of life. I have found that keeping a positive mindset, even when adversity abounds makes a situation easier to get through. Having that puppy trip over its feet or run up to you makes you smile and it defuses whatever negative event that may have transpired earlier.

I am still training dogs in 2012 and 2013, and no one could have told me that I would still be doing it in prison. The incarceration sentence of 20-years-to-life is now approaching 38-to-life. Yeah, that is pretty depressing if I dwell on the negative aspect of this time. I look down on the nine-week-old black Lab I named “Cricket” curled up at my feet and see the positive. I am privileged to raise this puppy and she will eventually give a person freedom.

When a dog is partnered, we see the letter that Pilot Dog sends to the institution, and I feel a ssense of helping another person. We never know the actual name of the person, only if it is a man or woman.

I have worked with training other service disciplines in another prison-based program. This is very worthwhile, too.

Dogs are so much more than pets and capable of doing a wide variety of tasts to help humans live a fuller and safer life. If you happen to see a service dog guiding its person along, it just might be a dog that began its service in a prison. People in prison can begin to their future, too. We just need a chance.

 

 

Editor’s Note:  Patricia N. Wernert is incarcerated at Dayton Correctional Institution. She is one of the leaders in a special program that helps raise dogs that provide future assistance to visually impaired individuals.

 

 

February 11, 2013

ENCOUNTERING THE OTHER (story by Jessica Baltzersen)

“In our society, we don’t know what to do with people that become other,” says Dr. Kate Lassiter, assistant professor of Religious and Pastoral Studies at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The “other” she is referring to are the men and women incarcerated whose voices go unheard and who, as some people perceive, become permanently identified as a delinquent or criminal. When she was 21-years old, Lassiter found herself working with inmates inside a correctional institution. She did not commit a crime, nor was she incarcerated. Instead, she spent her time inside prison walls dedicating her summer to prison ministry work.

It was the summer of 2000, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Lassiter divided her time working at Roxbury Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Institution, and Maryland Correctional Training Center. She entered the facilities not knowing what experiences she would encounter.

Lassiter never expected to be working in prison ministry. “It was just something I stumbled into,” she said.

She worked with a Catholic nun in a male correctional facility where she was known as “Sister Kate,” and for three days a week she performed counseling sessions, organized prayer and worship groups, and led church services. The other two days a week she spent in after-prison ministry at a social service agency that helped those individuals who were no longer incarcerated. This service provided basic needs, food, and also housing referrals.

“Prisons were originally religious institutions intended for solitude and reflection,” says Lassiter. Through counseling inmates, she was able to witness the metanoia or spiritual transformation of men who wanted to turn their lives around for the better.

“It was hard, though, because I was never there 24/7,” she says. “There’s no way I could fully grasp or understand what it would be like to be in solitude all of the time.” She came to this realization on July 4, 2000. As she was walking out of the prison she glanced back at the barbed wire surrounding the facility and then looked up at the dark night sky being lit up with fireworks. Seeing the two elements, one symbolizing freedom and the other oppression, she realized how contrary the two were and how she was simply an outsider trying to understand what the people inside the walls were going through.

“Religion sets up guidelines for our lives,” says Lassiter, “and religion has an ability to empower one person.”

She remembered one man in particular, who at the time weighed over 400 pounds. After he began to accept Jesus into his life, he was inspired to not only turn his life around spiritually, but mentally and physically as well. He taught himself to run and lost nearly 200 pounds. He also went back and pursued his GED. After he allowed God into his life it inspired him to change his entire self.

The justice system uses incarceration to keep people oppressed. But to some of those who are incarcerated it is a “community to call home, where they encourage each other,” says Lassiter. In experiencing incarceration, an inmate can view it as a punishment or it can be viewed as a second chance to look within oneself and realize that through spirituality one has the ability to change his or her life.

Twelve years ago, Lassiter worked with what she describes as “people on the edge.” Now, as an assistant professor in the Department of Religious and Pastoral Studies, she still keeps in touch with her mentor and continues research around social justice issues to “support, guide and  nourish those who find themselves incarcerated.

Lassiter believes that she positively influenced men’s lives through her ministry work and counseling.

Humbly, she says, “I don’t want to claim that I changed anyone’s life. It is just something I was called to do.”

July 3, 2012

Justice Advocate Stephen JohnsonGrove Speaking @ Partners with Justice (7-5-12)

May 26, 2011

What a ‘Changed Me’ Can Do for My Family and Society – by Erin Catching

What a “changed me” can do for my family and society.

First and foremost, all praises are due to the most gracious and most merciful Creator, without whom nothing is possible. I would also like to give thanks to Mr. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell – columnist for RED! the breakthrough ‘zine – for being instrumental in my quest for knowledge, discipline, growth, and change. It has been a blessing to have Hook as a mentor and an honor to be referred to as his student and protege. (See the Bible book of I Corinthians 13:11.)

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, and I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Every morning when I awake, I am living, learning, and growing. Unfortunately, it has taken thirty-five years, numerous trips to jails, three terms in prison, and countless mistakes to reach the stage of maturity that I am currently in. I have come to the point where I live without regrets. I am blessed to be alive, and I am gratefuly to have never received what I truly deserve.

I am tempted to go into depth as to what a “changed me” can do for my family and society, but it is time to “show and prove.” It is time to stop being reactive to the position I’ve placed myself in as a felon and an “ex-con” and start being pro-active and utilizing the gifts and blessing God has given me. So, nowdays, I don’t do much talking.

I look forward to re-adapting to society and becoming a responsible father and role model to my children. I have faith that everything else will fall neatly into place and through my actions, not my words, my family, in-laws, and loved ones will once again invest their time and resources in me. I only ask that they prepare themselves for my return and welcome me with open arms.

The changes in me will be evident.

Peace and love.

__________________________

Erin Catching is currently incarcerated in Lewiston, California.  His essay appears as part of a group of essays from inmates gathered and edited RED! writer, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell, which RED! is publishing.

May 26, 2011

Here I Come, World – by Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

Editor’s Note: This is one of the last columns that RED! writer, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell (#30-AT), wrote from an incarceration facility in Lewiston, California.  He was released on May 16, 2011. We are happy to publish it. His column from that facility – “Meeting of the Minds” – is forthcoming in RED!

                                                                                           _____________________

This has been a pleasure! Here I come, world. All my time on this jolt has been spent on  making amends with myself first, then I have been seeking God’s help, protection, mercy, grace, and love.

I had to be selfish on this one, because I have a certain feeling about my being incarcerated this time. All  praises to God! God is blessing me with the understanding of who I am and the minute elements of life I face. Amen.

God! There is no god but Him, the living, the self-subsisting, supporter of all. No slumber can seize Him, or sleep. His presence occupies all things in the heavens and on earth. “Who is thee that can intercede in his presence except as He permiteth? He knoweth what, before or after or behind them. Nor shall they encompass aught of His knowledge except as he willeth. His throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them, for He is the most high, the supreme (in glory).”

This particular column – “What a ‘Changed Me’ can provide for my family and society” – is a very intricate column for me, as I close out my ‘Mistakes 143’ entries. God-willing I will be back to provide for my family and society, and it’s a ‘very changed me’. I can’t write about how I feel, because this meticulous and precise point in my life has to be operated with my bodily functions and activities – Show and Prove!

But, I have others around me that have a few words or two that they would like to share with the world.

I wanted to leave these beautiful brothas that I have been blessed to be around at this present stage to do something about our retribution and debt to society. Give back by the smallest and most precious act that man has to offer, kind words from one’s hurt. (Even though a few articles ago I wrote about our vices, does one bad or good act truly define the true person God has bestowed in us?)

I’ve been studying the word “trust” and we must not only speak the truth as far as we know it, but we must always try to hit the right point. We must not speak unpersonably, and when we do speak, we must not beat around the bush, but go straight to that point which is right both in deed and in word. Then God will make our conduct right and cure any defects that there may be in our knowledge and character. Mistakes 143. With our endeavor directed straight to the goal, we shall be forgiven our errors, shortcomings, faults, and sins of the past. (I am growing, world.)

I pray that this will allow us to understand that God is with us (He has our backs) in difficult times. Even our times of difficulties are accompanied by a promise that “change” can come and be accompanied by God’s presence. God has shown me both sides of the life behind bars, the beauties of the street, and the effect of helping society in my coming out of prison at the time of my last sentence; but, I “dropped the ball” and now I’m praying to be back in the game – coach (God).

This issue will show that prison has compassion and is not all bad; we have just made poor decisions. Hope, yes. Hope is always at the end of the tunnels.

Firefighters say, “Look up and live!”

I’m seeking retribution from God and society because I truly believe I can and will make a big difference in the world.

But, I’ll say this – and others may oppose my opinion: Please don’t challenge my opinion. For certain, I appreciate CDC and Cal-Fire for this experience, fee, skill-buidling, and education. These are some of the things that can’t be taken from us, after we acquire them.

Case in point: on 4-15-11 my Fire Crew was called to an incident on (California) Highway 299: the rescue of a young man who lost control of his car and crashed his car following his father. I was one of six on my Fire Crew to be on the lift crew (rescue and relief). And earlier in the month, my Fire Crew went to an out-of-control fire in which one of the fire crews – 3 members – from Trinity Fire Camp was located. This was another incident.

Currently, all fire crews are in training for the fire season, in which all prison firefighters in the region showcase their training skills in front of big-wigs. This firefighting is serious business. My crew (Crew 4) has one up on a lot of the crews, as the past month or so we have been working with our fire-packs on, and we are blessed to be working for the Fire Captain (Mike Wurth); he has done an excellent job training us. He involves himself with the crew and works just as hard as we do, which allows us to have a different form of respect for him. He is not like other fire captains, or as my peers call them, “slave-drivers.”

I appreciate the hard work, as I can use my philosophy of how one can serve time, and work it to death. (I see the Big Picture; I respect all the captains here because this is their life, and I have learned a lot from all of them. I thank them for the lessons learned.)

Captain Wurth has had our crew hike, cut fire-lines, and work on the grade with our 30-pound packs every day for five or six hours a day. Excellent training for me. We are “Grade 1” firefighters, the ones that are called to cut a line around a fire for $1.00-per-hour. It’s not about the money for me; it’s about the retribution.  Look up and live!

Oh! I am in training for life, and my next stage of life is, “Do You Want to Learn How to Fly?”

It’s a PROCESS. 

(Our) Crew 444 (Catching, Nutcase, Billy Birdsong, Dutch, Rudy (“Lunch Box”), Hank, H-O #30AT, Smileone, my bunkie Adam, O.G., Chase (“youngster”), Revis, The Youngster (Sal), and my man (Trev, Roy Young, Jr.) from the Bigga the Bigga De Ol 94 in the eastside of Oakland. I call Trev “the madman, mastermind.”

These brothas have helped me build tons of interpersonal skills and CHARACTER. I want to tell them that C-Bug (the boss of all bosses) would be proud of me, as I have an Oscar on the one – role-playing.

I thank God for allowing me to understand that brothas here may want to write something, but can’t; the want to, but can’t deal with a black man (peer pressure and ignorant to life and its existence. Gangism, racism, and fear to stand up for the truth which they just can’t see right now. But, I respect all of them, their practices, their mentality, and their understanding. Amen.)

Life is great, and I want to shoot this one for my Dream Team: Nutcase (Erin Catching), N-O, Tips, and Keon (I look up to Keon) for helping me. I work each of them out, but I am reaping the rewards; by the grace of God I will be performing the Leap of Faith – Four Decades (leaping over cars to dunk a basketball).  Do You Want to Learn to Fly book will be out upon some negotiation with apparell companies for my theory. Only if Mike Skolnick and my family at Fader could be a part of this one….

Here I come, world. 

_______________________

RED! writer, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell is now living in Oakland, California.

Mr. Mitchell gathered and helped edit a series of writings by inmates at the facility in Lewiston, California, which RED! is currently publishing. The series is titled, “What a ‘Changed Me’ Can Provide for My Family and Society.”

May 25, 2011

Viewpoint by Calvin E. Nunley III

Prayer, faith, works – Freedom, Plan, Action.

These words that I have written are in two separate sequences. While either set of words may be viewed as having little to any relationship, they may also be bound to one another to work in conjunction for a great cause and to great effect.

Society has been long overdue for a make-over. As such, in a contribution to a cause, I am more than ready and willing to give great efforts. Not only will my effort be given to changing my previous courses of action, but I have begun to take some inventory or necessary changes to my community – changes in the direction of values.

By first monitoring and evaluating my own children’s and relatives’ level of awareness with input and feedback, I could then lead more children and young adults in a more positive direction.

I am more than certain that prayer, faith, and works will be very essential to freedom, plans, and action.

Calvin E. Nunley III is incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

Mr. Nunley’s short essay is a part of RED!’s “Action Words” section, which consists of writing and art by incarcerated individuals internationally.

May 21, 2011

The Innocent – by Keon Jefferson, Sr.

My uncle, Marvin P. Walker, Jr., has been an inmate in San Quentin’s (California) ‘Death Row’ unit for more than 30 years. After nearly three-and-a-half decades, my family has received what some may call “justice.”

After being lead by what I believe to be none other than God, a high-ranking official within the U.S. [appeals] court system decided to review my uncle’s case.

Once the file was opened, it did not take long before serious discrepancies stood out to this official. In short, these discrepancies within my uncle’s case were so extreme that this official not only immediately decided to “pull” the death warrant that was issued to my Uncle Marvin more than 30 years ago, but also ordered the convicting county, Santa Clara County, to prepare to re-try his case with new evidence, because evidently the initial evidence was not sufficient for a proper determination to be made.

Now, after three decades of appeals, and after three decades of sitting on Death Row in solitary confinement, and after three decades of trusting that God would intervene before the state of California decided to execute him, “Justice” prevails. But, after all of this, could there ever truly be justice for my uncle?

I was given this news by my mother over the phone while calling her from the institution in which I’m currently residing. And, when I heard her relay this news, it took everything in my power to hold back the tears of joy. You see, I know the pain my mom and her siblings have gone through all these years: the pain of having to travel for hours to be searched, scanned, harrassed by C.D.C.R. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation), and then put in a “cage” just to hug their brother. The pain of having to make these trips to inform their brother personally that his momma is gone, then his daddy.

I watched both of my grandparents hope and wait on God to bring back to them their son – to no avail. So, to get this news gave me such excitement that I had to share it with somebody. Hook Mitchell, as someone I could always talk to about anything, was someone I went to. He listened and decided to ask me to share the story.

The most important thing I’ve learned from my uncle’s experience is to wait on God. His justice always prevails.

Although our justice system has taken more than 30 years of my uncle’s life, I truly believe that God has new beginnings for him.

Please, readers, google Marvin P. Walker – San Jose Mercury News – for more information on this matter.

If you know someone who has potentially been wrongfully convicted, do as this U.S. court official has done, and do your best in the interest of justice.

Thank you for reading my plea, and may God continue to strengthen us in our faith. I’m extremely grateful for this brother, Hook, and the way he has given me the opportunity to shed some light on this matter of my uncle, Marvin P. Walker.

___________________________________________

Keon Jefferson, Sr.  is incarcerated in a facility in Lewiston, California.

Action Words is RED!‘s department of writing and art by currently incarcerated individuals around the world.

April 13, 2011

Drawing #2 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RED! – by MELISSA VANOVER (a columnist for RED! and visual artist, Ms. Vanover is incarcerated at Ohio Reformatory for Women