Liberate the Caged Voices: Strategic release

by Bay View Managing Editor Nube Brown

I won’t say I’ve taken a sigh of relief. I haven’t … There’s still too much work to do. But I can say I know there is a light at the end of this tunnel because prisoners remind me of it every day. 

In every letter I read, I find that prisoners are resourceful, thoughtful, grateful, loving, caring, wise, hungry for education and knowledge, intelligent, politically and socially astute, wanting human connection and missing their family, diligently and humbly striving for the liberation this system constantly denies them and deserving to be treated with the dignity and respect warranted all other people. 

We cannot move forward without their voices in the national call for deep, systemic change! We cannot move forward without hearing from the people who experience and live the real life consequences of caging people from youth to grave! We cannot move forward with the ball and chain of millions of people caged on our nation’s proverbial leg! 

Stop listening to the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s lies – deceitfully known as the “narrative” – about who’s a so-called criminal!

Truth is, I’m disgusted by the immediate dismissal of prisoners’ – and thereby their families’ – concerns, grievances and indictments on the system that oppresses them, kicking them to the curb as “criminals who get what they deserve,” while the people upholding this system of atrocities get away with nothing short of crimes against humanity.

In the early 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the speeches that would put him on the path to an early death. In it he warned we were “approaching spiritual death.” Have we arrived? 

Call for submissions from women and LGBTQI people

We’re calling for submissions from imprisoned women and LGBTQI people for March – Women’s History Month – and forward! Listen, beautiful people, the Bay View creates space for all our caged community members. But we need to hear from you! The caged voices of women and our LGBTQI family are scarce and we hope to change that.

Of course, there is not a guarantee that all submissions will be published in the monthly paper, but we now have various platforms beyond the print version of the paper where your voice can take flight and reach the public.

Please reach out to your incarcerated loved ones, family and friends and let them know we’re calling for all voices in this choir and consider submitting your own piece. Deadline for submissions is Feb. 23, 2021.

We can only make beautiful harmony together. Please write to us.

Strategic Release

Below is a concept introduced in 2015. It’s now 2021 – this author is still caged and now an elder. A February 2019 articlehas revealed a state-by-state grading system regarding parole. California received an F-.

Stop listening to the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s lies – deceitfully known as the “narrative” – about who’s a so-called criminal!

Amend the 13th: On the vital importance of ‘Strategic Release’ to community development 

by Joka Heshima Jinsai

Greetings, Sistas and Brothas,

As the national agenda of “Amend the 13th” continues to find resonance with the people, we see great enthusiasm for its major components such as support for the Millions for Prisoners March, the Autonomous Infrastructure Mission (AIM) and the Abolition Petition. But of equal importance is public support for the concept of “strategic release.” 

“Amend the 13th” – Art: Heshima Denham, J-38283, KVSP B2-117U, P.O. Box 5102, Delano CA 93216

Intentional instability 

What has fueled the legacy of legal slavery in Amerika from the Jim Crow era to the present day is unstable and intentionally underdeveloped communities. One of the chief contributors to this instability is systematic recidivism and lack of effective leadership in the process of community development, reclamation and stability.

U.S. policies of mass incarceration have fractured family units, have exacerbated generational poverty, have facilitated the school to prison pipeline and have solidified social containment policies for New Afrikans, Latinos and the poor into concrete barriers to social progress no less real than the prison walls which hold so many. 

A new progressive mentality

But this process of systematic dehumanization also produces its opposite: new men and women who have been transformed by their experiences with the productive system into genuine social progressives, the very antithesis to this structural hate. 

The unfortunate reality is that the U.S. is an attrition-based society, one that prizes retribution and punishment over restorative justice; one that values the conquest of resistance, while viewing mercy as weakness.

Such new men and women have given their very lives to transforming the criminal mentality into a progressive mentality and transforming their communities into bastions of social progress and stability. 

The unfortunate reality is that the U.S. is an attrition-based society, one that prizes retribution and punishment over restorative justice; one that values the conquest of resistance, while viewing mercy as weakness.

Though there is overwhelming evidence that these draconian measures do not diminish but instead actually fuel criminalization, Amerikan policymakers continue to capitulate to the growth model of the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC). 

It was this social reality which led New Afrikan political activists to develop the concept of strategic release. 

The highest threshold of rehabilitation

Under strategic release, a prisoner’s grant of parole, pardon or clemency is based on the positive impact he or she has had on their community and society during his or her imprisonment and the even greater positive impact they will have on society as a whole if released. 

Consideration for strategic release is based on a subject’s work product and proven record of service to the community and society and a formal commitment to continue to work in the service of the community and the people into perpetuity once released. 

As such, it is the height of social restitution, providing direct restorative justice to the people and our communities, requiring a lifetime commitment to society’s progress and welfare. 

This means strategic release is the highest threshold of rehabilitation, public safety and social justice any prisoner can achieve, warranting the highest reward – a second chance to serve society, physically present in their communities.

Strategic release also requires a minimum of 25 years of confinement as, according to the state’s own Bureau of Justice statistics, recidivism rates for those 50 and over, or who have served 25 years or more, are virtually non-existent. 

This means strategic release is the highest threshold of rehabilitation, public safety and social justice any prisoner can achieve, warranting the highest reward – a second chance to serve society, physically present in their communities.

Reducing crime

It is this physical presence of strategic release subjects in our communities which lies at the heart of its vital importance to the process of community development. 

The formal adoption of strategic release will have a direct impact on reducing crime and violence in our communities where it has been generational, while diminishing the social inequities at the root of criminalization through the contributions and activities of those granted release. 

The prospective prisoners considered for strategic release are committed to solving the ills of society without working with the state or law enforcement, but instead through directly working with the people and community; thus, they remain perpetually accountable to those who have granted them release. 

Strategic release is therefore vital to any community development scheme, as those released to the community, as much as fire transforms lifeless ice into life-sustaining water, they will breathe healing and life-altering development into our struggling communities. 

Viable alternative to the carceral state 

Strategic release will provide us all with competent and dedicated leadership at a time when we are facing a crisis in leadership in so many of our communities. Strategic release will serve as a blueprint for the expansion of restorative justice initiatives and act as a viable alternative to the maintenance of the traditional carceral state. 

The impact of strategic release subjects and their work product will serve to move society as a whole away from the greed, hate and naked self-interest.

This means strategic release will serve to undermine the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC) at the point of criminalization: our communities. The programs and mentorship provided by strategic release subjects in our communities will shut down the school and poverty-to-prison pipeline at the source. 

Because the subjects for strategic release have literally spent decades analyzing and developing solutions to the ills of society from the perspective of the most disenfranchised and oppressed, the programs, initiatives and institutions they have developed represent a degree of innovation unknown in mainstream Amerika. 

Rehabilitation through serving the people directly 

Strategic release provides a new impetus for our imprisoned sistas and brothas to take self-development beyond mere rehabilitation, forward to the realm of social activism and a genuine commitment to serving the people and society as a whole. 

These new interconnected social, economic and political relationships produced by the impact of strategic release subjects and their work product will serve to move society as a whole away from the greed, hate and naked self-interest which has exacerbated its core contradictions, on to more cooperative and harmonious modes of social life beneficial to us all. 

Support the concept of strategic release 

I encourage you in the strongest terms to advocate for the formal adoption of strategic release by your community and state legislators; support local petitions for strategic release and contact your local community organizers and encourage them to support the concept of strategic release. 

Please visit the sites of the affinity organizations listed below for additional information and links to others currently pursuing formal adoption of strategic release in states across the nation. Amend the 13th stands in solidarity with them and all those actively pursuing the implementation of strategic release. 

Until we win or don’t lose. 

Amend the 13th: Abolish Legal Slavery in Amerika Movement Founder and Executive Director Joka Heshima Jinsai

Amendthe13th.org 

Email: Amendthe13th@riseup.net

Twitter: @Amend_the13th 

Facebook: /AmendThe13th/

Georgejacksonuniversity.com 

Concreteandsteelcoe.wordpress.com 

Freespeechsociety.org 

Send our brother some love and light: J. Heshima Denham, J38283, KVSP, B-2 128, P.O. Box 5102, Delano, CA 93216.