Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Ma Parole" (upon) my word)

Back in the old country, the prisoner would go before the magistrate and give his "parole" - his word of honor - that he would not commit another crime. The magistrate would release the prisoner early, or continue to detain him, based upon his assessment of that prisoner's parole.

On April 22, 2013, Michigan Parole Board member, Jayne Price, said to me - before I had a chance to speak - "I can tell you right now there is little chance of you getting a parole because you have not served enough time." In fact, according to the circuit court judge (Schma), and according to the law, I had served enough time to be released from prison. Later on in my interview, Ms. Price conceded, "It's true, you are eligible to go home, but we like to see you do more time."

"Ma Parole" is French for "(upon) my word." When Ms. Price aborted my hearing at the start by saying, "...you're not getting a parole," she had literally said to me, "You're not getting a chance to speak." (Please pull the transcripts and see for yourself.) That is not how the citizens of Michigan imagine that their parole proceedings are being conducted. In a free society, they deserve to know when the institutions entrusted with the lives of fellow Americans lose their way.

During my 88-day hunger strike protesting the deterioration of prisoners' rights in the State of Michigan (May 18 to August 15, 2013), I wrote to understand what "parole" means, add this: The prisoner's life is not the only life at stake at a parole hearing. There are children - babies - wanting their dads and granddads home. These children have a stake. They must be considered in the parole discourse.

Add: The parole board should be held accountable. When the judge sentences a man, he gives a reason. When the parole board re-sentences that man, (which is what a 5 year continuance is), they are not compelled to give a reason. They can simply say, "We feel like it..."  That must change. If you are going to make a man do another five years in prison, you owe him a reason why.

Add: The parole board needs an attitude adjustment. When a prisoner has served his sentence well, and he goes before the parole board, that parole board member should be eagerly rubbing her hands together as she looks over that prisoner's record, saying, "Yes, we can get you out of here." Instead, they sharpen their knives, looking to further dismember prisoners from their families.

When the U.S. Supreme Court told California's Governor Brown that he must release 10,000 prisoners by year's end (due to over-crowding), Brown protested, declaring that would create a national crisis.

This country already has a national crisis: Too many Americans being satisfied with too many Americans being locked away for too long. It is a dark stain on the national conscience.

All human beings have a liberty interest - a God-given instinct to be free. Prison is not a viable life option - no more for the prisoner than for any other human being on Earth. Liberty is the only viable life option. It is the option this nation was founded upon. This nation's prisoner are Americans, too.

Today, this nation, too quickly, errs on the side of incarceration. More people languish in America's prisons than any other prison system on Earth. In the "Land of the Free," that arc must bend toward liberty. Once punishment has been meted out, Liberty must become the guiding light in this nation's pursuit of justice for all.

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