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October 13 2020
“The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves”.
Every day I wake up and it's a wrestling match between my tongue and mind, to form the words, questions, ideas, and plans I have for my future as well as people. So, I know how challenging it can be to write or email someone you may be interested in building a friendship with. So, I decided to put together a bit of inspiration, questions, motivation, and help for you. I strive to find ways to bring out the best of a person with every encounter we may have.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself and answer if you wish to build with me.
- What do you want to improve most in your life this week and how can you?
- What do you want to improve most in your life this month and how could you do it?
- What do you want to improve most in your life this year and how will you?
- What most excites you in someone else?
- What is your worst habit and how can you break it?
- Which good habit would you most like to acquire and how will you do it?
- Are people in your life interested in your plans, dreams, visions for success?
- What are you willing to wait patiently for?
- Are your objectives realistic or just pipe dreams?
I honestly would love to hear your answers. Feel free to reply and answer…..include your return address in your email or letters.
“Make use of time, let not advantage slip”.
Mark Razo #67912-097
October 11 2020
A Day in a Federal Prison
The prison myth has been around since before our time, but contrary to popular belief, Federal prison isn’t the scary place it has been painted to be; it’s just a boring place. It’s a place where Kardashian reruns and any other show that promotes half-naked women rule the television. Federal Prison is a place where the population looks forward to holiday meals and a yearly Christmas bag filled with sweets. It’s a place filled with selfish inmates instead of altruistic convicts. The population segregates itself by race and then demographics which results in “cars”. In theory cars are supposed to stick together and when necessary, handle their own. But, instead certain cars prefer to hide things from the rest of the population and look the other way, in fear that they’d actually have to enforce convict law.
Violence isn’t relished, it isn’t the norm; it’s forced upon most. Federal Prison is a place where many unbelievable things will take place before your very eyes. It’s a place where snitches are plenty and gangsters are scarce. It’s a place that will make you question your beliefs and drive you to use. It’s not a social club for gangsters, nor the breeding ground of hardened men. You don’t graduate with a badge of honor; there is no glory. All one can do is take pride in the fact that he aint like them and pray that he don’t ever come back again.
The Innocent's Loss
October 11 2020
In the age of mass incarceration, the efforts of overzealous police and underhanded prosecutors have led to countless cases of wrongful convictions. Advances in DNA science and other forensics have exposed too many instances of innocent people serving sentences for crimes they didn’t commit. For the fortunate few who are vindicated, there is little redemption wherein the fact that nothing can recover the lost time of replace all of the pieces of their inevitably shattered lives. The public image of elation and euphoria, captured at the moment when an innocent person tastes freedom for the first time in years, overshadows the sorrow of what has been stolen. While those with the means to prove their innocence, may eventually overturn their convictions, unknown numbers of other innocent prisoners will undoubtedly pay a merciless price for their inability to undo the injustice that has taken their liberty and encased them in concrete.
Too often, these miscarriages of justice are dismissed as unavoidable imperfections in an otherwise effective system, but for even one person to be convicted of a crime they didn’t commit is too many, and an unforgivable flaw in a failed process that needs fixing, To ensure that the wrongfully convicted have the ability to prove their innocence, and prevent these mistakes from ever occurring again, some basic changes need to be made.
The problem begins when unscrupulous authorities face public pressure to make arrests and press charges whenever a crime has been committed. Often armed with only speculation, they focus on the most likely candidate for a conviction, and concentrate solely on evidence which incriminates them. Once a target is selected, there is little chance of their changing course and this is the recipe for a wrongful conviction.
When a defendant appears in court, they soon discover that the deck is stacked against them. They are typically presumed guilty by potential jurors who place too much faith in the clairvoyance of prosecutors to know and speak the truth. This same public sentiment has led to jury shaming in the rare cases of acquittal. Those on trial will find that the judges they face tend to be former prosecutors themselves, as judgeships have become a rite of passage for public service. During the trial, most defendants are convinced by counsel not to testify, which is automatically seen by juries as a sign of guilt, despite judges’ instructions admonishing such inferences.
Throughout a criminal trial, the basic format allows the prosecution to present their case and the defense to be given a chance to respond. In courts where the scales of justice tip toward the prosecution, the script is suddenly flipped on the defendant as the trial concluded, and the prosecutor is given the final closing argument. This is perhaps the single greatest advantage of the trial, and arguably one of the biggest contributors to the prosecution’s extraordinarily high conviction rates. The provides an opportunity for the prosecutor to negate the points of the defense counsel’s closing arguments, while ensuring that their version of the facts is the last one the jury hears before entering deliberations.
Once a guilty verdict is rendered, the doors close quickly around the condemned, and the conviction is nearly impossible to overturn. The wrongfully convicted are now viewed as just another prisoner who says they didn’t do it. There is a common misconception that everyone in prison claims to be innocent. While this may the case for those awaiting trial, once convicted, many of the actual guilty have no further reason to deny their crime and will freely admit to it, giving more weight to those who maintain their innocence.
One of the keys to keeping innocent people out of prison is transparency. Requiring all police officers, including detectives to wear active body cameras whenever responding to or investigating a crime would greatly reduce the amount of falsified reports and perjured testimony that are common themes in wrongful convictions. Making all evidence gathered, including witness interviews inadmissible in court without an audiovisual record of retrieval would help ensure its authenticity. Detectives may argue that the use of body cameras could make some witnesses reluctant to cooperate however; the integrity of the process is protected by doing everything in the open and keeping everyone honest. Well-intended officers will welcome this useful tool in their pursuit of the truth.
Another way to provide transparency is through free and open access to all records held by authorities in criminal cases. Defendants on trial are theoretically granted access to all of the prosecution’s evidence against them. Unfortunately, prosecutors routinely withhold exculpatory evidence in their efforts to convict at any cost. In the past, many prisoners overturned their convictions by obtaining undisclosed documents and files through public records requests to police departments, which were unwittingly undermining the prosecutor’s attempts to conceal those items. In many cases, this has led to prosecutors in conjunction with the courts and other state agencies, to limit public access to records in criminal cases, and prevent such backdoor exposures. For example, in Plymouth County, Massachusetts all public records requests to law enforcement agencies are now referred to the District Attorney’s Office, which only releases heavily redacted documents and ensures that undisclosed documents remain hidden. These tactics are supported by the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees and enforces public records laws. If a prosecutor is interested in truth and justice, they should have nothing to hide and there is no reason for them to deny full and open access to all records in criminal cases. However, the only thing worse than an unsolved crime, is the blemish of a wrongful conviction, so they will stop at nothing to keep those mistakes from coming to light.
With many defense attorneys failing to turn over their clients’ files following a conviction, for fear of being found ineffective in a new trial motion, the innocent’s fight for freedom becomes increasingly futile. Any attempts to obtain records from prosecutors through the post conviction discovery process are met with more roadblocks in the courts. Judges will require that a post conviction discovery motion for documents or other items to be specific, denying the defendant full and open access to the prosecutor’s evidence in the case against them. This provides additional protection for prosecutors to conceal evidence that may be beneficial to the defendant. Something can’t be requested if it isn’t known to exist.
To level the playing field and give the innocent a fighting chance, the courts need to be balanced by eliminating the culture of primarily appointing career prosecutors to be bench. It is human nature to be biased, even if only on a subconscious level, and judges are no exception. In order to be appointed as a criminal trial judge, it should be required that all candidates must have a substantial amount of prosecutorial and defense experience, which would demonstrate a willingness by those attorneys selected to see the criminal justice system from both sides of the courtroom. There also needs to be accountability for police and prosecutors who knowingly conceal exculpatory evidence or misrepresent facts at criminal trials in order to obtain convictions. Without fear of consequences, these practices have become commonplace in the criminal justice system. Authorities should be stripped of any immunity and subject to oversight by independent agencies. Additionally, to screen for bias and corruption in the criminal justice system, it should be required that all public servants regularly submit to polygraph exams. Although inadmissible in court, these devices are crucial factors in determining the integrity of carious government employees such as members of the Secret Service. If this can serve as a prerequisite for appointment to those positions, it could be equally effective in vetting out judges, police, and prosecutors.
Although the average person may have trouble imaging a circumstance in which they could be falsely accused of a crime, everyone is susceptible to the scenario. A simple case of mistaken identity or being in the wrong place at the wrong time can put an innocent person in the crosshairs of an investigation. Under the current system, it only takes a small number of inadvertent coincidences for a prosecutor to create a circumstantial case around an innocent person and obtain a conviction against them. Juries are only required to find a person quilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, when someone’s freedom is at stake, there should never be any doubt. The justice system is supposed to protect the innocent, not condemn them.
Brent Bellah #1077684
October 10 2020
It’s truly a blessing to sit and write this while it’s another hot, sleepless night. Maybe it’s more the worries about the sickness running rampant in society. So, I lie awake listening to music as my mind drifts thinking of family and friends.
School’s on hold, but the work out is in session sometimes two times a day. At this rate I’ll be sculpting a statue LOL! My art skills are also receiving an upgrade with pencil, pen and watercolors. Being locked in prison but also locked down inside because of the Covid-19 Virus. I’ve got unlimited amount of time to perfect my art and learn a lot of other things. My dictionary has been put to prodigious amount, so my vocabulary is expanding.
It’s funny all the things you can do with a lot of time. Even though at times it gets restless, I’m just blessed to be able to wake up each day. Some people don’t have that chance so I always keep that in mind. Even though I’m in this place I can still make a difference in another’s life. Hopefully when all this virus stuff is over, I’ll be able to share to express myself and let others get a glimpse from this side of the walls.
Andrew Valencia #V52393
October 10 2020
By stepping up to help others, I assure hope is ever present. Together my own convictions of hope increase and hope continues to burn within my internal being. Hope is the love of my life. By creating hope for the people, hope surrounds us all. Hope is my daughter. Hope is my family, hope is my friend, my strength, my faith, my DNA. Metaphorically speaking and literally, I was born from hope. “Esperanza” my mother, her name, her path and her presence is Hope. Humanity is Hope.
By hoping, I am able to look upon the future with vision and dream. It is the Native American people, MLK, Caesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Ghandi whose lifelong work gives us hope.
Hope to rise above circumstances with spiritual mindfulness, and be our own trailblazers in some form or another, seeking social justice…so that we can all exist with genuine respect for one another.
This fire of hope allowed me to never give up or give in and because of this I was found suitable for parole July 2nd, 2020. After 18 years I will be going home in October…My hope for the future is bright and I hope yours is too. Let this be a reminder that anything is possible “Never Lose Hope” and live to fight another day.
A Few Extra Thoughts
October 10 2020
What’s up everyone? I can’t fully express myself in one letter, so here’s one of my blogs. Blogs are fifteen dollars or more. I had to get a loan from the bank for this. Ha! No check from the IRS for me. Times are hard for many people. I’m not bankrupt if I have your friendship. Anything else is a bonus. My acceptance speech: I’d like to thank everyone that has written or emailed me. If you read my ad just one time, please write back one time with your option.
Sometimes you seek and you find. Sometimes things find you in life. Check out this book “Autobiography of a Yogi” Paranahansa Yogananda, chapter “Outwitting the Stars”, read pages 260-261. Get your bangle and have your amulet made out of silver and lead. Take care always!
Again, I believe all queens are beautiful in their own way. I want to make your day in some kind of way; make you smile, have some laughs, be there when you’re down and out, help lift you up, because that’s what a real friend does.
I’m attempting to break a mold in society. Wish me luck!
When most people look at pen pal ads on the internet, they only read an ad if there is some attraction there. If you happen to see me and don’t like my look, please don’t base your decision on writing me back solely because of that. If a friendship is based on looks, then what is a friendship? I’m not asking for a date, just a possible friendship.
Good night everyone. I hope to hear from you. Cheers to a lasting friendship.
Chaz Thrailkill #M44258
October 8 2020
I wanted to voice my opinion on this platform months ago to show my sincere support and solidarity for everyone affected by this Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic with some humor about watching Tiger King, doing quarantine challenges and giving tips on cooking a ramen noodle a million different ways to lighten the mood of this dark cloud claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Even being in a confined environment, lives are being lost because outside entities have brought this silent killer to our domain and forced our already strained living conditions to literally change overnight with an unforeseen and intense administrative lockdown. So as I wrote a semi-serious blog entry with witty quarantine humor, I procrastinated my proofreading stage, trying to find creative ways to shoutout and give the biggest gratitude to the awesome, fearless, tired, yet selfless first responders and essential workers that are sacrificing their own health, mental strength and personal lives to keep their communities, cities, States and collectively the nation afloat; I was punched in the stomach by the video of a modern day lynching of Ahmaud Arbery (an unarmed and innocent Black man jogging). Like other things, this has been a new normal seeing unwarranted killings of innocent Blacks since I have been incarcerated, since 2011 and I didn’t feel like it would affect me or me vocalizing my opinion of the pandemic blog entry because I didn’t yet know how deep things went in this isolated incident. It still weighed on my conscious.
Then the news divulged more information…my heart got heavier when I saw another unwarranted death of a beautiful Black queen Breonna Taylor (whom was a first responder helping save the lives of countless individuals contracting this virus) days later. The shock was still fresh from Ahmaud Arbery when I discovered Breonna Tayler died in her sleep by a controversial “No Knock” warrant, now outlawed. This could’ve been my sister, mother, wife or daughter. They never had a fighting chance to continue the greatness of their precious lives were destined for. A literal attack on Black lives.
So I started editing and drafting a 50% Covid-19 and 50% Black Lives matter piece. As I finished, my procrastinating ways set in again but it doubled as unbeknownst intuition because as I watched the news for updates on the new wave of Coronavirus cases, the disproportionate disadvantages African Americans, LatinX and the Native Americans are faced with because of the virus and the violent ramifications the economy (stock markets and small and large business) have been hit with, another video surfaces of another unwarranted killing of an innocent Black man…George Floyd. Every killing lowering my morale to have faith in my fellow man, law enforcement and the Justice System when I re-enter society since I am already behind the power curve from an excessive mistake I made as a teen…this killing not necessarily greater than the recent others but the fact George Floyd was mishandled and not equally treated as another human being, man, son and father from the very beginning from the public servants paid for with his/our taxes, that swore to protect and serve him. For 8 and a half minutes, flashes of the hundred of years of deeply rooted racism protruded and manifested itself before our very eyes. The casualness and arrogant cockiness the officer displayed as George Floyd begged and pleaded for his life…for a simple breath of air…then, ultimately for his “Mama”, is something WE should NEVER forget.
As the uproar began with historic protests and riots engulfing almost every major city around the world, more names and videos of unwarranted killings of unarmed innocent Black men; Javier Ambler, David McAtee and Rayshard Brooks; were released. A myriad of emotions overwhelmed me because it could’ve been my brother, father, uncle or son to lose their lives…or even me to lose my life by a rogue officer with a lack of discretion and training especially with my carefree and adventurous lifestyle in a beautiful yet cold city like Chicago. This time I am glued to the television not necessarily to see Day 17 of protests but to see what changes in legislature the Senate and Justice System will administer to this system racism lined in the fabric of almost every police force. Soon many videos surfacing excessive force on peaceful protests makes it hard to believe there are only a few bad apples in the bunch, seems as if the integrity of the whole bunch is tainted or otherwise contaminated, especially seeing an elderly White man aggressively pushed which ended in him having a cracked skull in intensive care. A nerve was struck as a human race that WE can no longer be silent. The world has seen the disgusting atrocities Black people have continued to endure and finally it feels promising this moment won’t be another vain outcry.
Before I sound like a hypocrite yelling Black Lives Matter, I do acknowledge my faults and one is being incarcerated for taking the life of another Black man whom had a promising future (yet in the heat of the moment, fearing for my life, and with other dynamics playing major factors…things dangerously escalated). I know NO amount of protesting, blogging, mentoring, and advocating for change will suffice for my actions. Hopefully a lifetime of praying for forgiveness and a million positive deeds will help me receive mercy for my transgressions. And this is the same sobering humility I want my people and allies to have when pushing for change through peaceful protests and voting. Though I have a small platform all I can do is continue to evolve in my heart, morals and ideologies. Staying woke and making sure y’all are too. With the same urgency the MLB (Baseball), NBA (Basketball) and NFL (Football) are taking in opening safely the players, coaches and owners of all races and religions need to continue this discussion on their bigger and broader platforms for a profound change in this country’s cultural and social infrastructure, since our president…someone with the largest platform in the world won’t say what’s necessary. Really anyone with a voice can do their part; celebrities, musicians, athletes, socialites or whomever has a following. This topic will NEVER be redundant and I hope this blog entry sways “at least” one person to motivate change. I love my Black people and it feels good to know the rest of the world is starting to love us too. I pray the families and friends affected by the Coronavirus, police brutality and economic peril caused by this pandemic find strength and support through continued patience and tangible assistance.
Thank you for taking the time to hear me out and hopefully this is shared enough to spark the change of those on the fence or on the bench not knowing what to say or do. It’s not enough to just listen, speak up and TAKE ACTION! Everyone has a voice, an experience to share or an idea for positive change in this narrative…so if you haven’t spoken up or protested, follow my lead. Continue social distancing when applicable, cover up and be safe.
October 7 2020
As I turn on the news and read the papers, I am reminded how much and how profound affect of women in the world. Women who have fought and strived to better this nation. Also the fight for equal rights, in so many ways, for the Congresswoman to the single stay at home moms.
If nobody has told you guys, this is what I want to tell you...Thank you...I am thankful for you all...
Graciela Cortez #X-09376
October 5 2020
"Covid-19 (Radical Social/EconomicTransformer)"
Covid-19 has changed our interactions, the way we live and the way we express love/affection. This virus has forced us to distance ourselves from our love d ones during holidays, special celebrations or even when ending up in a hospital. This virus doesn't care about borders, race, social status or age forcing us to flee schools, public places and work sites. Such radicals measures have affected our economy leaving millions without jobs and a way to provide for their essential needs.
Now a days we cannot greet or congratulate someone by shaking their hand. We cannot comfort someone with a hug or visit them is hospital bed. We walk around with a mask no longer able to greet, cheer, comfort or make someone's day with a smile.
Virtual gatherings are not equal replacements for personal reunions. But let's assure our loved ones that the distance is not minimizing the love we have for them.
Congratulate someone with a cheerful text, tweet, or in a post. Let's replace our hidden smile when greeting someone with a well announced "Good Morning", a "Hello!", "How are you?" or a wave of the hand. Let's cheer or comfort someone by telling her/him you care.
We must take precautions, modify the way we live, work, interact or study. However, let's not allow covid19 to stop us from loving, caring, cheering, comforting and ultimately living our lives happily. Let's wear our masks, practice social distancing, spread love and not Covid-19.
October 4 2020
Dear profile visitor:
Coronavirus got you down? Socially distanced from everyone? Unable to visit restaurants, bars, movie theaters, public events? Depressed? Lonely? Out of work? Partner left you for a younger woman? Stuck home with nothing to do?
Welcome to your cure: me! Sure to lighten your spirits, dump that unrewarding Facebook addiction and begin an old-fashioned analog correspondence with someone who has it worse than you. No excuses, nowadays with all the time in the world, go ahead and drop me some words.
My undivided attention is yours for the asking, newfound presence in your life will add color and levity. Like my acquaintance with you will brighten my own harsh surroundings. Take a chance. What do you have to lose?
Coronavirus has surely impacted your own life more than it has mine. It’s awful how trying things are for most folks out there. I can’t even imagine how I’d cope with it myself were I not in prison. One the news it looks like some cheesy Sci-fi movie about some dystopian future brought on by a plague, and unnerving reality even from my isolated digs.
Inmates and staff long wearing masks, there’s been several further constraints imposed in the name of preventing a coronavirus outbreak here. But prisoners are already severely restricted and unable to enjoy life’s usual pleasures, the newly-enacted precautions have added little more to our already severe deprivations that I’ve lived under for so many years.
Anyhoo, stay safe and healthy as we begin our pen pal friendship.