Sunday, April 19, 2020

Thoughts About the Coronavirus From Behind Prison Walls

"As of April 13, three incarcerated people in New York State prisons had died from COVID-19, and 139 had tested positive for the virus, according to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Among staff, 581 people had tested positive, and one had died."
-John J. Lennon, April 13, 2020 THE ATLANTIC

These lines are from recent emails from Bruce Bryant, Charles L. Wynn, Sr., and Byron Brown, inmates at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY. 

Peace Will:
I received your e-mail today and I am doing just fine as I could under these circumstances, my mother is doing well as well. yeah a lot of prisoners have been exposed to the covid-19 and 9 prisoners died from it. It is a damn shame how they disregard
 our lives in here, so I have to take my health very seriously because I will not make it out alive, Feel Me!!!!    -Tony Harrison

Dear Will,
I'm writing this message, because the coronavirus has now allegedly caused the death of a prisoner at Sing Sing Correctional Facility pending an autopsy. This prisoner also had other medical complications as well. So the Prison Administration doesn't really know what he died from until his autopsy results come back from the state medical examiner. However, the administration has completely sealed off two tiers for prisoner's which are infected with the coronavirus.. Will, most of the officers and prisoners are wearing protection over their face and practicing social distances. I'm doing all of the necessary precautions to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Well other than that I'm still doing the same things as usual. I'm making sure that I stay healthy. So, that's my primary concern, and everything else will come together. I want to be a person who will survive and adapt to my conditions. The majority of people are survivors, it's encoded into our DNA to be just that survivors period!  -Byron Brown

this slogan was sent to me by Byron Brown, 
as an email attachment

Dear Will,
I'm writing this message to check on you. I just want to make sure that things are fine with you and your family
I'm doing fine just making sure that I stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. I can only imagine just how stressful it's to be quarantined in your home especially when people are so condition to be out socializing with friends, colleagues, and family members.  

I will offer you a tip on how I deal with the isolation. I think about the things that I need to do personally to get my life in order. I have to constantly remind myself of the good things I have in my life, because sometimes we tend to be forgetful of those blessings or advantages. Lately, I've been really thinking about all of the people who died from coronavirus and how their deaths will affect not only their families but society as well. Therefore, when I reflect upon my current situation, I'm immediately reminded to be very humble, because I have a life. It may not be the one I planned on having but I certainly can change the outcome of my life. We should be more mindful and appreciative of what we have and don't possess in life so, we'll work extra hard to obtain those things in which will make our lives more pleasant.

Stay positive and focus on yourself!   -Byron Brown

it's really bad out there, huh. This too shall pass. Imagine what those in undeveloped countries go through. The Black community is really getting hammered. I believe it was Malcolm X who said, that when America has a cold, the Black community catches a flu. 

While millions of Americans find it difficult to cope with self-isolation during this COVID-19 Pandemic, I often wonder how those isolated in solitary confinement in prisons across the country are coping with the pandemic.  
-Bruce Bryant

My precious mother did inform me that you did in fact get yourself tested for the covid-19. Know that I'm praying and trusting that you are clear of the coronavirus, and AT THE LEAST your body has overcome those symptoms that you were feeling {shortness of breath and that cough}. I too have been experiencing some symptoms over the past week as well. Two days ago I made and ate two albacore tuna fish sandwiches on whole wheat bread, and I couldn't taste it at all. It literally felt as if I was eating air. Yesterday my taste buds returned, but I still haven't had my usual appetite. Some nights my body aches, and I get the chills. However, once I bundle up in my thermals and hat, and eat a couple of cough drops, when I wake up the following morning I feel better. I'm just so grateful to our MOST MERCIFUL and ALMIGHTY GOD that although I'm literally surrounded by the deadly coronavirus my body CONTINUES to fight off the ailments in its entirety. We both know that God is THE BEST healer, and he will surely protect us both!
-Charles L. Wynn, Sr. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Dandelion and The Orchid

I asked Bruce Bryant to share some thoughts. This email arrived today.

Bruce Bryant and his parents

While millions of Americans find it difficult to cope with self-isolation during this COVID-19 Pandemic, I often wonder how those isolated in solitary confinement in prisons across the country are coping with the pandemic. 

Wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for the past twenty-six years, I had the misfortune of finding myself in solitary confinement for a minor incident, while at Shawangunk Correctional Facility (Wallkill, NY). The incident occurred on December 22, 2007, at around 8 AM. I woke up, brushed my teeth and used the bathroom as I normally do every morning. Shortly after doing this an officer came to the cell I was occupying and told me I caused a flood in the cell on the tier beneath me, when I flushed the toilet. Astonished, I asked the officer, how did I do that? He then claimed he had announced early in the morning that no one should use the toilet because they were working on the cells on the tier below. I apologized and told the officer I didn't hear him announce that, and besides, why didn't they just turn off the water. He then stated I would be given a misbehavior report. On January 2nd, 2008, I attended a hearing for the misbehavior report, I was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in the solitary housing unit, also known as the box. 
My first day locked in 24 hours a day, I realized I would have to get use to eating less food since they would be feeding me small trays of food in the cell. So I decided I would fast and pray for the first few days, so my stomach would get use to a small amount of food. 

The next thing I did was get a couple of books out of my property. I chose 
"Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl.  I began reading this book and really thinking about its concepts. I was introduced to logotherapy, which is the idea that despite our circumstances we can still be driven to find meaning in our lives. Also the idea that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are often called to change ourselves. Even in suffering we can find a meaningful existence. 

During these times of isolation I would encourage people to read, read, and get to know yourself. One of the things I realized in isolation was isolation introduces us to ourselves. How we respond to crisis is more important than the crisis itself. 
I also think about the analogy of the Dandelion and the Orchid. The Dandelion thrives in any environment, while the Orchid requires a particular type of environment to thrive. However, we all have a little Dandelion in us, we can thrive even in the midst of this pandemic, but we must choose to do so.

April 8, 2020

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Charles L. Wynn, Sr. Shares Scenes from A Former Life

Today I received some photos from Charles dating back to 1985. In Charles' words, "I simply want people to see that I had a 'life' before I was illegally arrested, and ultimately wrongfully convicted."

  • The latest legal development: a hearing on Charles' recently filed 440 motion has been scheduled for April 24, 2020 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York:

Charles (right) with best friend "Luck"

On the subway with a lady friend

Charles with friend Glenn ("my comrade")

December 2002
Charles in Las Vegas

January 2003
In Las Vegas, on the way to the Hopeville Gospel Concert...

Spring 2003
(left to right): Charles' brother, mother, sister, and Charles

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A letter from Byron Brown about Education in Prison

Byron Brown is currently an inmate at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY. He asked to share an aspect of prison life which many people on the outside might be unaware of. This email from Byron arrived on March 22: 

Dear Readers, 

I'm writing this post to share my personal experiences with educational programs within prisons in New York State Department Of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The majority of Americans don't realize that the educational programs in prisons aren't adequately sufficient for prisoners to make a successful transition back into society.

Byron Brown

I'm speaking about the vocational programs in which, prisoners are offered in NYS DOCCS. The majority of these vocational programs nolonger have a NYS Department of Labor Certification. Therefore, this administrative decision to nolonger offer NYS Department of Labor Certified Vocational Programs has placed prisoners in a huge disadvantage socially upon exiting prison. The reason why prisoners are in a disadvantage socially once they leave prison, when they are interviewed by a potential employer. The employer will not hire them without a NYS Department of Labor Certification. An employer will hire someone who has a NYS Department of Labor Certification as opposed to a regular vocational certificate. (Think about the general differences between those vocational certification programs). Why would an employer hire someone who doesn't have the best qualification? In my opinion the person with a vocational certification from the New York State Department of Labor has the best qualification. Although, I don't have this mindset when it comes to the higher educational programs in prisons.

Presently, in NYS DOCCS there are several college programs offered to prisoners in which, they could earn degrees, i.e. ( a Master's in Theological Studies, Bachelor's in Behavioral Science, & Associate's in Arts and Humanities). Prisoners wouldn't have been afforded this opportunity without the assistance of philanthropists, volunteers, and college administrators in which, they understand the importance of education. Education will only empower individuals, it enriches their lives. I'm fortunate in this regards to have taken advantage of educational opportunities offered in NYS DOCCS prisons.

I understand that the economical costs of educating prisoners is really expensive for tax payers. I'm only suggesting that legislators introduce proposals, in which prisoners could pay back the money for their educational programs upon reentry into society. For example, they could do volunteer work within their respective communities. Community leaders could make the decisions on where to place prisoners as volunteers. I don't want to be to specific on any of the placement aspects, because someone who's an expert should make that determination. I would just prefer that legislators give prisoners more added incentives towards educating themselves. Overall, this idea has tremedous benefits from a socioeconomic perspective. I think legislators have been very reluctant to introduced these type of prison educational reforms mainly due to political opposition. However, there will come a time in which legislators have to give credence to these type of ideals for societal purposes.

Byron Brown

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Letter from Tony Harrison

I received a letter today from Tony, who is an inmate at Sing Sing. (READ ABOUT TONY'S CASE) Along with the letter, Tony sent copies of his certificates in Legal Assistant/Paralegal studies from Blackstone Paralegal Studies (2002) and Basic Legal Research/Law Library Management (1998) from the NY State Department of Corrections. Here are sections from Tony’s letter:

Tony with his mother

February 14, 2020

Now as you read about my struggles and troubles as a youth, I do not want you to think that I am making any excuses for being in prison for more than half my life, because I will admit I did make the wrong choices growing up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, NY in the early 1980’s. I was raised by a beautiful, strong-willed mother, who struggled by herself to raise my brothers and me on one income. She was doing great with me until I had become a certain age, 13 years old to be exact. This is the age that I sought a father figure. 

The streets are where I chose to search for that father figure. I became so disobedient towards my mother that she lost control and had to seek help from the Family Court system. Before the age of 18, I was in and out of the Division for Youth Maximum Secure Facilities. This led to a long prison stretch as a youth in an adult maximum-security facility.

I finally made it home to my mother and family in the summer of 1994, with a different grown man mind set. Because of that long prison sentence and growing up in prison as a youth I chose to make better choices as an ex-con.

I was doing great when I first came home, because I was wholesaling and peddling designer watches, clothes and baby toys. I was 24 years old, six feet tall, 240-260 pounds of solid muscle, basically in tip-top shape, so I went into the security bouncer business. I got jobs for predominantly big-time clubs. At the time the big-time clubs were The Tunnel, The Limelight, and The Palladium. I even did a lot of bodyguard work for celebrities like Puff Daddy Combs, Biggie Smalls, groups like Wu Tang Clan, Mob Deep and M.O.B. I was even involved in a hip-hop historical event called The Source Awards in 1995, doing security for the owner of Source Magazine (David Mays).

Now Will, if you remember reading my case summary, I wrote that I was arrested on my way to Prospect Park, going to work out.” I had determined to stay in shape when I got home. I even had a gym membership at Jack LaLanne, where I worked out when it was too cold to go to the park. I even had my own business card with a photo of my face and half of my body on it. I even did exotic dancing on the side for bridal parties and parties in general. 

Just as I was picking up the pieces of my life and getting ready to inactive of the parole that I was on I became a target for Brooklyn detectives, who needed to quiet down a predominantly white community. What better way to do this than to target a huge black man with a criminal history? At that time the community in which I resided as well as surrounding communities was in the process of buying black people out of their low rent apartments and putting the ones with a criminal record back in prison. This was called “gentrification”. 
Now it’s been almost 25 years since the handcuffs were placed on me for this illegal madness, but I try not to cry over spilled milk, and since I’ve been incarcerated I have gotten swift with all types of criminal and civil law. I earned my legal research certificate and my paralegal certificate and have gotten at least eight (8) prisoners home to their families, and assisted plenty of prisoners with their legal battles, so I am what’s called a jailhouse lawyer.

Now it has been a hell of a journey trying to get help and I hope you are the one and believe me my friend I deeply appreciate what you have done so far. Now I have a few questions as well. If you would like more information pertaining to my life, would you want to meet face to face? Can I put your phone number on my calling list so I can speak to you over the phone?

I want to end this letter in peace and harmony and hope I answered your questions with enough information to help you complete the blog post. Hope to hear from you and thank you again and again.

P.S. Showing a lawyer my case summary would be great, but a private investigator would be even better along with a world-wide exposer. Feel me!!!

Sincerely yours,
Tony Harrison

Any letters of support/encouragement are always appreciated. To write to Tony directly, use this address:

Mr. Tony Harrison
c/o Sing Sing Correctional Facility
354 Hunter Street
Ossining, NY 10562

Thoughts About the Coronavirus From Behind Prison Walls

"As of April 13, three incarcerated people in New York State prisons had died from COVID-19, and 139 had tested positive for the virus...