Prison Focus Issue 53
In April 2015, two New Afrikan California prisoners, in a Bay View article introduced the concept of, “Strategic Release” (SR) for ‘Life’ prisoners. SR was described as “a different form of compassionate release.” The bruthas reasoned that SR recipients “will have a direct impact on reducing crime – and the social inequalities at the root of (some) criminality. They continue: “consideration for strategic release is based on a prisoner’s work product, and proven record of service to their community, and society as a whole…” their notion of an SR begins with a petition to the Board of Parole Hearing (BPH), the prisoner’s biography requesting his/her parole, or the same sent to the Governor requesting Clemency (See April 2015 edition of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper).
The hurdle in a SR’s path, is the BPH’s or the Governor’s investigators accepting the presented evidence of a prisoner’s service to society, or the interpretation of a cited act’s value. Without such an agreement, it is hard to fathom a SR petition opening the gate for the subject of its request. However, even if prisoner advocates for SR, attained agreement one hundred percent of the time, from state investigators for their SR clients. Those paroled/clemencied would be but a miniscule portion of the more than 30,000 ‘Lifer’ population in California. Therefore, SR ought to be approached as a tactic employed in a larger campaign to acquire a greater say in parole matters. A campaign in part taking aim at the BPH’s propensity to deny parole to ‘Lifers’ who have completed the “base term” of their sentence. A campaign in part which will seek to replace law enforcement types – police, prosecutors, etc., on the ‘Board’ with engaged community members. And, a campaign in part where “Jail-House Lawyers” (JHL) among us will research the impact of the December 17, 2013, “Butler Settlement Agreement” signed by lawyers for the BPH in the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California. A settlement that “required the ‘Board’ to notify ‘Life-Term’ prisoners of their ‘Base-Term’ - - - at their first Parole Hearing.”
The JHL will also research the implications of Butler’s presiding justice J. Anthony Kline’s 2012 statement: “The ‘Board’ appears to be violating the rights of thousands of inmates by systematically denying release.” Comments apparently made in an earlier ‘Lifer’ petition. Butler’s lawyer Sharif Jacob indicates early “notice of ‘Lifer’s’ “Base-Term” - - - is a starting point for a constitutional challenge,” in that on average ‘Lifers’ are receiving parole dates a decade beyond their “Base-Term.” Once all that can be learned from “Butler” has been, the JHL’s who conducted the research will prepare a pamphlet with sample writs and instructions for ‘Lifers’ to utilize when the ‘Board’ fails to follow “Butler.”
A community is a group of people of common interest, living under the same government. It coalesces with other communities to form the ‘state,’ giving it the authority to administer its affairs and enforce the law of the united communities. The community is: the city, county, or state of x, y, z versus John/Jane Doe on the ‘Face Page’ of a ‘Charge-Sheet.’ When the community law is broken, it seeks to identify, arrest and prosecute the alleged culprit. If convicted, the convict is subject to a range of sanctions up to and including a period of exile served in state prison. If the governed had “the right…to alter or abolish” the government, in the ‘colonial settler’s’ thinking of “The Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” Then our community is well within its right to alter any state agency – so it better serves us. The centerpiece of the campaign is giving the community the ultimate say in determining if a ‘Life’ prisoner will be reintegrated into his/her community. By creating and empowering a “Community Release Board” (CRB) brought into being through protest, proposition and/or legislation. Spearheaded by a determined cadre, united for its realization, who will educate the public, and organize mass- consciousness to protest, to proposition, to apply political pressure to advance the agenda.
The CRB will contribute to curing California’s inability to operate its prisons within their capacity, absent federal oversight, or caveat where capacity is above 100 percent, and the combustible consequence of crowding too many people into not enough space, looms on the horizon. By implementing a practical Parole Program guided by a prisoner’s “Base-Term,” and diluting dependency on manipulatable opinion. The CRB will contribute to shrinking the CDCr’s budget by resisting taking at ‘face-value’ future behavior predicters, colored by hidden prison politics and petit-peon beliefs.
The late Black Panther Geronimo Ji-Jaga was targeted by the F.B.I.’s COINTELPRO, and local police “Red Squads.” in their effort to destroy the L.A. Chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP); he was framed and convicted of a murder he did not commit. He was interned in the California Department of Corrections for (27) years, until his tenacious capable attorney convinced the court to recognize the miscarriage, ordered his release and awarded him millions in damages. The Parole Board in its wisdom, held him (20) years beyond his “Minimum Eligible Release Date” (MERD).
Had Ji-Jaga’s fate been left to the “Board of Prison Terms” (BPT) and/or “Board of Parole Hearings” BPH’s discretion; chances are he would have died an innocent man in prison, or been subject continuously to the same treatment Sundiata Acoli reported he faced across the country at his New Jersey Parole Board Hearing, (i.e.) “A forty-year train of denials.”
I appeared before the “Board of Prison Terms” BPT in December of 1981, (2) years beyond my MERD. The Deputy District Attorney representing my commitment county, recommended I be given a 5-year parole date. The Parole Board rejected the recommendation, and denied my parole, over the view of my commitment county’s representative. Today, I am (37) years beyond my MERD.
The CRB will create space, and its ripple-effect will remove the need to pay other states to house thousands of California prisoners. It will shrink the CDCr back within its borders. It will remove the pressure for new jail, and prison construction, manage over-crowding, speed up ‘Lifer’ community-reintegration by purging current BPH dysfunction.
The CRB will serve as an alternate board to the BPH for all indeterminate sentences, except ‘life-without the-possibility-of-parole,’ and ‘condemned prisoners.’ It will guard against class, and race-targeting, and act as a hedge to impede private prison profiteers, and ‘bought-off’ politicians. The indeterminate prisoner’s “Minimum Eligible Release Date” will serve as the dividing line between BPH Parole Authority, and the CRB’s.
The state will take an indeterminate prisoner to BPH within a year of their MERD and decide if it’ll grant parole. A parole grant will BE subject to the “Governor’s Review & Reversal” (GRR). If the BPH denies parole; the authority to parole such prisoner’s will transfer to the pre-convictions’ community, “CRB,” with the prisoner’s central file.
The CRB will review the file to determine when the prisoner will appear before The CRB. The CRB will have the authority to parole such prisoners within an agreed upon number of years – not to exceed five and subject to GRR. After 5-years, the CRB’s authority to grant or deny parole is wholly its own.
When the CRB grants parole; it’s “Community Parole Agency” (CPA) will assume parole supervision in all grants except prisoners the state classifies as “high-risk.” With these parolees, the state will supervise. The CPA will monitor the supervision, and conduct any parole violation hearing. The state will contract with the CRB for costs sufficient to cover salary and infrastructure agreed to with CRB negotiators.
CRB candidates will examine BPH statutes, and study California Parole Boards: The Adult Authority, Community Release Board, and the Board of Parole Hearing’s Archives. In search of the balance between what has been, what is, and what the CRB hopes to contribute to this history, as it prepares to take the mantle of alternate board and confidently write a new chapter. CRB review decisions will be weighted towards: the sentence given, when the committed crime occurred, the average time in prison during particular periods, additional convictions while in custody, the Life-Term Matrix Butler, and a sanity evaluation, (i.e.) “Does the prisoner know right from wrong?” All CRB parole grants or denials will consist of these factors, the CRB’s gathering experience and natural community sense.
The CRB’s aim is to release as many prisoners who’ve served their sentence as possible, without endangering public safety, by not being ruled by fear. By, cutting through calcified opinion, and convoluted reasoning which has ignored the time in prison, and age reduces dangerousness dramatically as well as the likelihood of participation in future crime.
FREEDOM IS A CONSTANT STRUGGLE!!!
For more information about our Community Release Board CRB Proposal, write to us:
Attn: W. L. Nolen Mentorship Program –
In re: Community Release Board,
P.O Box 7907
Austin, Texas 78713