The Clemency Project as conducted during the Administration of President Obama comes to a close with the final days of his service, 330 sentence commutations were granted on his final full day in office, January 21, 2017. The powers exercised by a sitting President include the use of clemency to reduce court ordered prison terms for individuals the President deems harsh under currently existing law. Clemency is potentially available to any non-violent inmate who has served 10 years of his original term of service.
During his time in office, President Obama recognized clemency to be a worthy attempt of America to be fair to many of her children who have been confined far too long. He has granted a total of 1,715 sentence commutations rendering President Obama the Grantor of the most commutations in a single day, 330, and the most during a term of office, 1,715. Not since President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 have so many Americans felt this level of hope for freedom. The comparison may seem strange; However, the hopes, the dreams, and the prayers for freedom for those in bondage remain the same.
As the Obama Clemency Project comes to an end, across the nation and from each point of the compass, it was followed by inmates with great anticipation. To many thousands within state and federal prisons, the project had given hope. Many, to-date, have received the welcome letter granting the clemency sought; thousands more have felt the crush of the receipt of the letter of denial. Many other’s fate today hangs in the balance awaiting the results of the President’s last full day.
Herein lies an account of a small group of inmates during the closing days of the Obama Presidency as viewed from the Twilight Zone of a prison through the eyes of “Twilight” along with a plea to a higher power for himself, (who anxiously awaits the listing of the final 330 commutations), and especially for those who have, to-date, been denied.
It was my original intention to wait for the completion of the Obama project and have final results in hand, knowing my personal fate in the process before rendering the enclosed information; however, after experiencing the flood of emotions of the past week, I felt now is the best time to share this account with you. In sharing this now, I am relieving my desire to implore you who may read this to reach out quickly to your fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, and other loved ones showing your deep and continued love and support of them and your desire for their freedom. The need for your help and support is now! For now, many of God’s children must look to the next administration in hope the clemency project will continue strongly and long awaited and needed prison reforms will become new law. Many continue to go through dark and dreary nights wondering what the future holds. The clemency project started by Obama is now in the hands of President Trump, awaiting a period to get cabinet members in place is expected but hope is still alive!
The most important thing is never give up hope, there is still hope for all qualified, continue to do the things that make the chance for freedom sooner. On behalf of each of us within the Twilight Zone, I’m thankful for your prayers, your support and your loving devotions, the fuel that moves us through the days, one day at a time! Thank you!! And God bless you and yours.
“The Last Week”
After being incarcerated for decades, I’ve felt sure that I’d faced the worst mental trials possible and I had, until last week. The week President Obama left office ending the most aggressive Clemency Project of any President with the commutation of 330 sentences his final day. Mine could possibly be in this final group, so I continue to anxiously wait, pray and hope.
I think I could have managed my personal situation much better should I have been able to avoid the eyes of many young inmates here who have shown me a great deal of respect mostly due to my age and long experience within the Twilight Zone.(FEDERAL PRISON), These young men know they do not have to reach out to me for love, support, a kind word,I have
chosen this path for myself. Long ago, I came to terms with my place here as a place where my Creator desired me to be in service to Him. I’m in service to Him when I’m serving His children. Many of His children are here with me in bondage.
I’ve heard and read people say: “I could taste freedom” or “I could smell freedom”. I never put much stock in either saying until last week. Last week I had that taste in my mouth, that smell in my nose and those two of my five senses will never be the same! With every clemency approval list issued, with every denial list posted, with the uncertainty of those who were not on either list came emotions that had names like HOPE, JOY, AGONY, DISTRESS, ANTICIPATION, and REASSURANCE. Our group was small compared to the thousands all over the country who watched; male and female, young and old, watching as we were for a sign of hope.
Elation seemed to rise from the pores of the skin of those who were shown on issued approval lists. I could see the joy on their face as clearly as the sun on a cloudless summer day. Their eyes told a story of the freedom won from bondage spoken throughout history and expressed so eloquently in recent years through the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Free at last, free at last, thank God ALmighty, I’m free at last!”
Though I’ve not known the joy of appearing on an approval list as of yet, I was wrapped in the joy of those who have been, rejoicing with them. Pulled from the anxieties and uncertainties of my own situation into the bliss of others, the intoxication could never be reproduced by a foreign substance in my body; in one instance, looking into my friend, Smitty’s eyes, I knew pure joy.
The denial lists has proven the most difficult for me. Although I’ve not appeared on any denial list either, I’ve felt the pain of those here who have been denied as if their situation was my own. I’ve traveled this prison road for many years thinking I had mastered the process of doing time, I was wrong!
One day at a time! That’s been my GPS, my pointer, my flawless direction home, my road to freedom. Today, my GPS shutdown. For the first time in a very long time, I found myself lost in prison. Try to imagine what it’s like to look into the eyes of a young woman or a young man who came to prison at the age of 18 and now they are 28. They placed all their hope, all their faith that this Clemency Project was the answer to their prayers for freedom. Then, on the last day, their name appears on a denial list. I could see the cloud come over them, a cloud as dark as any could before a mighty thunderstorm. Maybe the cloud I saw before my own eyes was enhanced by the wall of tears for the plight of the thousand on this denial list; especially for the 28 year old who slowly comes to the realization they are going to be in prison for 10 more years!
What I see is real. It’s not caused by my own grief or by the tears I struggle to hold back. There is a pain in those eyes with the capacity to touch the heart of the most cruel of persons. There truly is a thousand mile stare. I’ve seen it. It is on the faces of those who have come to the denial list and found they have been denied. I’ve stood before agony this week and watched it crush so many. To see how brutal the effects of being found on the denial list is;is to see hope savagely drained from a living human being. To watch the young become old in a matter of minutes, And the old have their life force drained almost into nothingness. It is to watch the hope of tomorrow become the nightmare of today.
One would almost think that I was on this denial list. No! Not today, anyway. However, the pain I feel is just as real. Nothing I’ve learned in my many years of prison life prepared me for this moment in time. I must reach back to the medicine my mother believed was a cure all; “I must pray”. At this moment in time, when I look into my brother’s eyes and they are without hope. I who have vowed to never never give up hope am helpless to help them, no matter how deeply I feel their pain. Well maybe not helpless; I have my mother’s medicine. Will you who are beyond these walls help me? Will you pray for those on the denial list? Will you pray for their peace?
The final list is the list of uncertainty. I am on this list. The last 330 approvals under the outgoing President who have been approved. The list is not out yet. When we know I’ll tell you of the hardship of this list, no matter what my personal outcome happens to be. Peace to you from the Twilight Zone. (Federal Prison)