The savagery of Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentencing

Michael Dorrough, known by his friends as Zah, has been caged 33 years, 30 of those years tortured in solitary confinement. Zah is an Elder, a teacher, a lover of humanity and a fighter for justice and liberation for his people, and all people. An esteemd Elder California Hunger Striker, he put his life on the line to end the torture of solitary confinement and we want him home!

by Zaharibu

What specifically has been problematic about my situation is that I did not commit the crime that I am imprisoned for. I was not convicted for killing the victim in this case. I was acquitted on the charge that I personally used a weapon in the commission of the crime.

Nothing at all has been fair or just about the prison experience. I do assume responsibility for the mistakes that I have made in my life and during my incarceration. 

Rehabilitation has everything to do with a person wanting to fix himself. The tools needed to give the people who are constantly working on themselves simply do not exist in prison.

There must be a clear and firm commitment by legislators and CDCR to provide the incarcerated population with the tools that are needed to contribute to the maturation process inside. Tools that include housing people in prisons closer to their families and loved ones, an increase in pay for workers, technological training, expanding the makeup of the board of prison terms to include members of the community that the person will be paroling to as well as psychologists and psychiatrists who are not employed by the state, as many of them write incredibly biased reports.

A lot of the people who come to prison come as children, psychologically.

Along with the self-help programs that are available in only some prisons, a lot of the people who come to prison come as children, psychologically. We develop this warped sense of what manhood is – and there are no programs available in prison. There was and still is a program in Solano prison, MANUP, that focused on the development of manhood. In my opinion, it was a very effective program.

There must be a recognition that in order to know if we have learned, we must be put in positions to practice what we have learned. If prison is about rehabilitation, once we have started to engage in the life-long process of working on ourselves and fixing ourselves – becoming productive members of society – at that point and in that moment we have outgrown the prison experience. 

There is nothing left for us to learn in prison. From that point on, our being in prison is just about punishment. To the extent that we are willing to do so, politics should be removed from the equation of who is released. 

Prisoners and their families should be allowed to provide testimony.

There are people who were found to be not suitable for reasons that are highly politicized. And, as a result, legislators should not make it a discretionary choice for courts to resentence prisoners.

I was found guilty of first-degree murder, but the jury found the personal use of the weapons allegation to be not true. The jury did not find that I was the actual killer or shooter. 

In spite of this, none of the recently enacted new laws are being applied to me. I have been consistently told that I do not qualify for any of the relief offered in these new laws.

Hearings should be held and prisoners and their families should be allowed to provide testimony of their stories. That record would be valuable in crafting legislation that would remedy those injustices.

In closing, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the efforts to create a just and humane approach for how crime and punishment is administered.

Please know that the work that you do is crucial to our fulfilling our democratic potential.

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Reed Dorrough, D83611, SATF,11, B3-6-4L, P.O. Box 5248, Corcoran, CA 93212.