During the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations which was held in New York from 25 September 2015 through 27 September 2015, global leaders ratified the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html). Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals comprise what is known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 16 is entitled, “Peace, Justice And Strong Institutions”. Its objective is to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. Discrimination in the criminal justice system, the rehabilitation of prisoners, alternatives to imprisonment, access to education in prisons, and access to healthcare in prison comprise the Criminal Justice Reform and Restorative Justice component of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16. Under the leadership of Jerome Teelucksingh, Ph.D., the Founder of International Men’s Day (http://www.usainternational mensday.blogspot.com), which is observed in 86 nations, the “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Initiative was inaugurated. The first observance of the “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Initiative – which is in alignment with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16. – occurred on 29 August 2018.
The International Men’s Day “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Initiative not only points out disparities in the criminal justice system; it also serves as a solutions-based “Call To Action” which works to educate citizens about the parole process – particularly, family members and loved ones of incarcerated souls; and support institutions, organizations, and individuals who help eligible candidates successfully navigate the parole process. Additionally, the initiative works to help ensure that model prisoners are not arbitrarily denied parole in initial and, if necessary, subsequent parole hearings. The Criminal Justice Reform and Restorative Justice component of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 will help give a “second chance” to the 10,000,000 souls – Men, Women, and juveniles — who are incarcerated annually in nations throughout our global village. Why is this necessary? Let’s look at two nations – Australia and the United States.
Rampant racial disparities exist in Australia’s criminal justice system. Although indigenous souls – Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders — comprise 3% of the 25,011,756 souls who reside in Australia, they comprise 28% of that nation’s prison population. It is a costly set of circumstances for the Australian government as evidenced by its annual US$7.9 billion prison budget. Recidivism rates for Australia’s indigenous prison population is much higher than the recidivism rate for its Caucasian prison population. Causative factors for the high rate of recidivism for indigenous souls who are housed in Australia’s correctional facilities include, but are not limited to, lack of rehabilitation programs, education curricula, vocational training, and highly-skilled prison jobs. Inflexible sentencing and health issues which arise from the lack of access to community-based health and social services top the list of causative factors for a high incarceration rate for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. As you might imagine, Australia’s indigenous population has a rate of access to parole which is much lower than their Caucasian counterparts. There is also a need for the involvement of indigenous professionals in developing effective intervention programs, reintegration strategies, and community-based sentencing orders.
Closer to home, in the United States, between 2.2 million to 2.5 million souls – Men, Women, and juveniles – are incarcerated annually. Some are innocent. Their only crime has been being misidentified – either intentionally or unintentionally – as a perpetrator of a crime, being poor, uneducated, or a person of color. And some either have committed a crime or, while not having committed a crime, were part of a group whose member or members were responsible for committing a crime. Countless incarcerated souls have atoned for the transgressions they committed, mentored other incarcerated souls, and created and co-facilitated initiatives that not only positively enhance their institutional environment but also serve to effectively address and resolve key challenges that marginalize the communities they left and, upon release, will return to. These key challenges include, but are not limited to, Fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, violence, eradicating street crime, and positively transforming the dysfunctional mindset and behavior of at-risk children and youths Yet, despite their transformation, positive enhancement of their institutional environment and society through the development and facilitation of solutions-based initiatives, and a low risk-assessment score, many of these souls are repeatedly denied parole.
If you are an incarcerated soul who is Hispanic, Native American, or of African descent in the United States, you are 50% more likely to be denied parole at an initial parole hearing than your Caucasian counterpart One might ask: “Why is there a discussion going on about disparities? Isn’t the American criminal justice system being reformed?” It is a legitimate question. After all, the First Step Act (Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person – Public Law 115-391) which reforms the federal prison system and works to reduce recidivism was recently enacted into law by the United States Congress. And then there is the REFORM Alliance (http://www.reformnow.com), whose Founding Partners are Messrs. Meek Mill, Michael Rubin, Van Jones, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Michael Smith, Robert Kraft, Daniel Loeb, Michael Novogratz, and Mesdames Laura Arnold and Clara Wu Tsai. The organization is on a mission to “dramatically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system – starting with probation and parole.” While commendable giant strides are being made, racial disparities in parole still exist and many State Parole Boards continue to arbitrarily and capriciously deny parole to incarcerated souls who have demonstrated that upon their release they will be an asset and not a liability to society. As an example, the Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole Initiative’s United States Team recently received correspondence from a model prisoner of African descent who was denied parole at his initial parole hearing in 2017 on the grounds of “lack of remorse”. He was subsequently denied parole at a second hearing on 14 August 2019. The gentleman in question had a low risk-assessment score, Letters of Support from a diverse group of professionals which included Correctional Officers at various correctional facilities, and a consistent track record of rehabilitation and positively enhancing his institutional environment. He mentored and continues to mentor incarcerated young adult males and has developed and facilitates, among other things, atonement programs and solutions-based discussion groups and workshops. Despite his positive transformation and stellar accomplishments, he is scheduled for a third parole hearing in February 2021. An excerpt of his correspondence, which appears below, speaks volumes about the consistent lack of impartial and fair treatment in parole doled out to incarcerated souls of African descent by one State Parole Board:
. . . I was denied parole again for basically the same reason. This time I am being held for 18 months as opposed to the 24 months the last time. The two Commissioners that were there are the ones that many organizations are pressuring the Governor to get rid of. Well, I am staying focused and strong. I have to figure out what steps I have to take next. Out of the six that went to the Parole Board, only one made it. I don’t know what they want. They come up with the same excuses over and over again. There seems to be a practice with the Parole Board when it comes to denying release to the brothers. First, they deny most for 24 months. And when you go back, they deny you for 18 months, then 1 year, then whatever afterwards. The denial range cannot exceed 24 months and can be no less than 6 months. The fight continues. And I know that certain issues have to be brought to light about parole. So the struggle continues. I believe Frederick Douglass said, ‘Without struggle, there is no progress.’ I’m not going to let this deter me from reaching my goals and I won’t give up. I will remain strong regardless of the end results. If my Ancestors stayed strong in the face of adversity, then I have no choice but to do the same. I will continue to grow and do better. The past does not define me. I’m definitely a new person and I will continue to pay forward my service to the Global Community the same way that so many have done for me.
While the gentleman in question mulls over his options, which include filing an administrative appeal challenging the State Parole Board’s decision, the transcript of his most recent Parole Board Hearing is being reviewed by the Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole Initiative’s United States Team.
Ensuring that impartial and fair treatment in parole is afforded to each soul who is eligible for release from prison is everybody’s business. Incarcerated souls who are granted parole will pour into our communities. In view of the fact that there are – at any given point in time – approximately 4.7 million Americans who are either on parole or probation, the likelihood that a member of your family, a neighbor, or even a co-worker is on parole is great. Institutions, organizations, and individuals in our communities have a vested interest in the parole process. Everyone loses when parole is arbitrarily and capriciously denied to model prisoners who have positively enhanced their institutional environment and designed and implemented mentoring and parenting programs for their incarcerated colleagues and/or positive life-transforming initiatives which help resolve crime and violence issues that inundate the community to which they plan to return.
The burden of navigating the arduous parole process should not rest solely on the shoulders of incarcerated souls. Family members and loved ones of incarcerated souls must be proactive by learning about the parole process in the state in which their family member or loved one is incarcerated. They must engage their incarcerated family member or loved one in a dialogue about the parole process as soon as he or she becomes entangled in the justice system. It is also recommended that family members and loved ones know the full name, telephone number, and e-mail address of the incarcerated soul’s counselor. A family member or loved one should be designated by the incarcerated soul to establish and maintain contact with his or her counselor. The designated individual who will act as the incarcerated soul’s external contact and the counselor should work together as a team to (A) assist the incarcerated soul with the rehabilitative process during their incarceration; and (B) prepare him or her to successfully navigate the parole process . All incarcerated souls should have a Post-Prison Plan. Here again, this burden cannot rest solely on the shoulders of incarcerated souls. The designated individual who will act as the incarcerated soul’s external contact should, along with the incarcerated soul’s counselor, play a role in developing the Post-Prison Plan. Institutions and organizations must become proactive in the parole process by creating and implementing “inside-out” entrepreneurial, technical, and vocational skills training and financial literacy and household management programs. It is imperative that Institutions and organizations facilitating “inside-out” training to incarcerated souls also offer employment to souls who have successfully completed training, immediately subsequent to their release from prison.
Moving institutions, organizations, concerned citizens, and family members and loved ones of incarcerated souls into the parole equation as collaborative partners is a key piece of the puzzle to creating fair treatment in parole” promotes compliance with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must decide what we want. Do we want justice? Do we want peace? Do we want inclusive and sustainable communities
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Stock photo ID:1153308739