Jasmine, I want to thank you and all of those at the Incarcerate Us organization for giving me and my fellow inmates a voice.
I’m going to answer the questionnaire, but I’ve also included parts of my story to shed some light on the new man that I am today.
1. No, I was not justly incarcerated. This is due to the fact that I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, which is essentially capital punishment. A jury of my peers was not involved in the sentencing-phase, and my indictment had no drug amount, and was based upon fabricated testimony alone, which attributed 150 kilograms to me personally. The Supreme Court in Apprendi v. New Jersey, and later on in Alleyne v. United States, deemed it unconstitutional for one to be sentenced for anything other than that which was in the indictment. Had the Supreme Court ruled that these cases were retroactively applicable, I would be a free man today.
2. Yes, I am blessed to say that upon my release I have a loving wife who has prepared a home for the two of us, and who has also set aside funds and made preparations for us to start a small business. Along with the above, I have been able to obtain my commercial driver’s license, which deems me employable right away. I have loving friends and family that will also help me. I have my social security card, birth certificate, and commercial driver’s license as tangible qualifications.
3. The American mass incarceration crisis began without proper studying about what was truly wrong as the drug trade sky rocketed during the eighties and nineties. Once it was started, gung ho law makers and the justice department–from top to bottom–used it as a tool to falsely justify a lock them up and throw away the key attitude. The symbol of a scale was no longer the symbol used to dole out just sentences. It became a one-size fits all, and if you didn’t help them incarcerate others, then you would be subjected to maximum punishment based upon the common attitude of prosecutors and judges. The new justice symbol, I hate to admit, is that of a diabolical money-making scheme where people are imprisoned for profit. That is my theory, but yet one that has large support by many who’ve studied this madness.
4. The very first step toward prison reform is to make retroactive the laws that have already been passed by the Supreme Court and Congress. Bring back parole, but this time allow the prison officials who interact with the inmates on the daily basis be the driving force behind those that are released. The prison officials who supervise the inmates must have a valid say in the process. Current as well as successful ex-inmates must have a say in what types of educational tools are needed to be given to the incarcerated inmates in order for them to reenter society as a prepared citizen.
5. I have learned that American criminal court system is truly biased towards blacks, minorities, and even poor whites. I have learned that choosing to exercise your constitutional right to a fair trial as opposed to a government-offered plea bargain is not respected by the judge or prosecutors in most courtrooms. I have also learned that if you don’t have the money to hire a great attorney, then you do not stand a chance for sure.
6. My position of corporations profiting from mass incarceration fuels the fire. Those corporations lobby our congressional leaders to keep making laws that will keep the prisons full. The congressional leaders get favors and kick backs from those same corporations. It’s just sad and wrong. It perpetuates slavery once again in a different way that has the masses blinded to the ills of mass incarceration.
7. I believe that there is a level of diabolical evil on the part of at least some lawmakers as well as those who execute the laws. There is a lot of ignorance and of course there is greed. It has now gotten to a too big to fail status. In my mind these are at least a few of the factors as to why over the past 40 years there have been massive increases in the American prison population.
8. The federal prison system doesn’t have parole available for those incarcerated after November of 1987.
9. Three words that I’m forced to say as to what prison means to me are: People Being Enslaved. Prison can be used to help those who’ve fallen prey.
America is the greatest nation in the history of man. We’ve made a lot of errors in our growth as a nation. Yet Almighty God has constantly and vastly enriched all of us. We like to be viewed as a God-fearing nation. We went through slavery, segregation, and so many other ills heaped upon our own people. Yet we keep regressing and expecting those who were generationally damaged to be able to forgive and move forward.
How can we, when, through mass incarceration and other ills perpetuated and heaped upon us we fail to move past those issues. All of the historical empires imploded due to greed and diabolically pouncing upon their own people. As a nation it’s highly hypocritical of us to promote democracy around the world to others while having so many of our own incarcerated for non-violent crimes. Then we imprison them in housing projects, leave them homeless, and treat them wrongly in many other ways. We seem to have become so unforgiving and careless.
I’m confident and fully persuaded that unless we repent of our ugly ways, we are fastly headed down the path of destruction. Dealing with mass incarceration and providing jobs and housing for those reentering society can be a grand beginning, thus showing our willingness to repent.
God bless our nation! Help our leaders Lord I pray.
WILLIE LEE HARRIS (44654019)