Southern Collective Blog, Guest Writer 1 – Tut M. Tut.

Buisness Administration Major. Graduate of Dyersburg State Community College. Currently pursuing a Bachelor’s with Lane College. Participant with the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative.

In the course of living, we all hear the statement “the only thing that’s constant is change.” While doing time and striving to take advantage of the things that are considered to be avenues of rehabilitation – i.e, programs, vocational classes, higher education, etc. -, one of the many psychological/emotional struggles that you encounter is the reality that the general public has very little faith in the ideas that change and growth applies to incarcerated people just as it applies to them. In here, your day to day reality is plagued by the possibility that irrespective of what you do now and have done consistently for years, the state and all of its constituents receive you according to who you are in the midst of criminal patterns or a single criminal act. When it comes to incarcerated people it’s as if natural development, maturity, and moral growth are not on the table.

Consider the parole board; in the course of my time in prison, I’ve made it a point to speak with dozens of people who’ve had their cases reviewed by the board although I personally don’t have a date. In certain instances, I’ve seen that a man goes up for parole with no violent extensive disciplinary history, an active record of participation in rehabilitative programs, a record of being college education, no ties to security threat groups, and decades work of time served on his sentence coupled with family and community support. On the other hand, I’ve seen someone go up with a recent violent disciplinary history, as an active member of a security threat group, with no education or trade skills beyond a G.E.D., very little time served in the Department of Correction, and no record of participation in rehabilitative programs.

Lo and behold, to the wonder of the incarcerated population, the man who is seemingly destined for recidivism is subsequently given the opportunity to go home to his family and live within a society that records indicate he’ll clash with. I write of this not to express disdain for the blessing certain people receive, but in contrast I wish to highlight that worthy people are being denied blessing that they would truly appreciate in word and deed. In the state of Tennessee, there is no set standard or criteria for who’s granted parole. It literally hinges upon the emotion state of the parole board members at the time that they make their decision. I’m certain that they would deny this claim, but I dare someone to investigate the hearings they they conduct just to ascertain the resistance that is put up and therein will lie your answer to the truth of my claim. I’m also sure that the seriousness of the charges will be put forth to counter my claim, but I’ve seen drastically different decisions applied to individuals with the same changes. At times a more serious offender who shows a more acute lack of rehabilitation is granted parole as opposed to a lesser offender. All of the things I’ve seen show that parole and the method that the board applies when considering offenders is botched.

Unfortunate is the fact that the state has yet to recognize that the best course of action for determining who needs a chance at release or sentence commutation is through the development of an agency with learned professionals who can apply expertise in the identification of offenders who have rehabilitated to the extent of having a very high likelihood of maintaining in society without conflict with the law. Furthermore, the actual nature of a person – character, natural disposition, and beliefs – must be ascertained by way of reliable individuals who’ve been in constant close contact with an offender. The judging of incarcerated people by those who’ve never set foot within a correctional institution needs to be stopped. The making of criminal justice laws without input or communication with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people is also just flat out stupid. If lawmakers want to know how to stop crime they must humble themselves and begin to interact with those who fully understand the worldview of one who has carried out criminal patterns to the extent of being caught.

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