by Michelle Alexander and Danny Glover
We are writing in support of Mr. Romaine Fitzgerald’s (B-27527) petition for release. He is now 70 years old and has been incarcerated for over 50 years. He has demonstrated deep remorse for his actions and is no longer the person that he was a half a century ago. In the interest of justice, I entreat you to grant his release.
There is no logical, justifiable or legal reason to continue to incarcerate Romaine, an elderly stroke victim who often requires the use of a wheelchair.
I am fully aware of the serious nature of Romaine’s offenses, committed in 1969 when he was still a teenager. As a result of important medical advances, the world knows far more today about the functioning of the teenage brain than it did 50 years ago. Numerous studies have proven that the teenage brain is not mature, is prone to unreasonable risk-taking and lacks the ability to engage in substantive forethought. These facts are borne out by the disproportionate number of young people who comprise the bulk of the world’s jail and prison populations.
It is also important to acknowledge the reality of our nation’s history. The 1960s represent one of the most tumultuous eras of our national development. Most observers would agree that the racial progress that resulted from that decade’s upheavals represent welcome additions to our vibrant democracy. It is unfortunate, indeed lamentable, that some young people who sought to contribute to positive social change engaged in activities that we all agree were both unwise and harmful. While Romaine can be counted among these well-meaning but misguided youths, nothing is gained by keeping him locked in a cage as an elderly man.
Scores of other prisoners convicted of the same offense as Romaine during the same period (circa 1969) have since been paroled. There is no logical, justifiable or legal reason to continue to incarcerate Romaine, an elderly stroke victim who often requires the use of a wheelchair. I implore you to do justice in this case by granting Romaine’s release.
Michelle Alexander, former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California and currently a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary and an opinion columnist for The New York Times, is best known for her 2010 book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” which revolutionized the national debate on racial and criminal justice. She can be reached at http://newjimcrow.com/contact. Danny Glover, who was born and raised in San Francisco and learned acting at the Bayview Opera House, is a movie star and freedom fighter.