Going to prison is like dying, when you first get arrested it is a tragedy with all your loved ones grieving for you and your plight. Then you sit in the morgue going through the court process. You get visits, letters and reassurance that you will never be forgotten, never be alone. Burial time, the whole family gathers at your sentencing, a large public show of support. As the gavel falls, cries of grief and outrage echo throughout the court room, 66 years! As the casket lowers into its place, people watch, weep and maybe silently rejoice as they see the dark depths you are plunged into.
The prison bus delivers you into the gates, buried alive, in a mausoleum with only small windows to watch the world pass by in wonder. Only those who truly care return to trim the weeds that grow around you and plant flowers to cheer your ever restless spirit....keep you sane. Mail, the water that quenches my daily thirst for contact and communication, has slowed from a steady flow to an almost non-existent trickle. I was sentenced 12-1-2003 and to this date, only my mother and sister have visited on a regular basis. Eventually all forms of communication with the outside world fall away like dead leaves from the tree of life. It forces you to immerse yourself into this lifestyle, with its anti-social stigmas and customs. How is society fooled into believing this works? We are not rehabilitated. We are warehoused, fed, processed and shuffled around like cattle in the name of justice.
Prison creates bank robbers out of petty thieves, murderers out of drug addicts. With nobody rehabilitated, we are merely re-educated, forced to adapt to the dog eat dog world of prison. When your life is turned upside down and your experience the pain, violence and hatred that is prison, how can you be expected to ever function for a society that has wronged you so? I made up my mind when I was 18 I would never let my mind go to waste, knowing nobody was going to do it for me, I have tried my best with limited resources to rise above the rest in these dark depths. You may cage my body but my mind will always soar free, untethered, allowed to go along with the greatest adventurers like Marco Polo. Share a seat in the audience of great men like Nietzsche, Lao Tzu and Thoreau, but a book is a sad substitute for life! What of men who are not determined to improve or not capable of doing it unaided? Does society not owe it to itself to help these wayward men and women better themselves for no other reason than it is to society these lost souls shall return? When you take a man with nothing, no skills, no education, no virtue, how do you expect him to change and become productive? The current philosophy is lock them up, build more prisons... but eventually the pressure will build enough behind the dam, it will burst! Can society afford that? Jonny
Why does it seem that nobody truly searches for the truth until an injustice has already been committed? Wouldn't it be wiser and more cost effective to search out the truth prior to condemning innocent men? Our media feeds us the harrowing tales of the monsters that are all around us lurking in the house next door or in the dark alleys just waiting to prey upon our innocent society. How can we do anything but give more money and power to our saviors, the government? The politicians needed to pass the laws, the police forces to enforce these laws, catch the monsters and, lest we forget, the district attorney's to use manipulate and abuse these laws so these wretches can be caged forever!
The district attorney's weave a tangled web, building the story they desire to sell the public, built on some fact and a lot of imagination. Their tale floats into our homes on waves carried through time and space, plastered on our television screens by our media who's very existence thrives on these tales. Captured in the web with the spider, whispering what it wants you to hear, all the while injecting us with their poison of exaggerated charges, twisted facts and even outright lies. Using the fear generated by the media to enrage society and trap their prey. That might just be the problem with this great nation. We get so caught up in the "story", we forget that these "monsters" are actually people. Yep! Flesh and blood and breathing humans like yourself. This is how our media has betrayed us and itself, by blindly accepting the story (the poison) then using it to prey upon our natural fear of what we don't understand, to condemn and cage our fellow man. Don't get me wrong, there are disgusting animals who commit such atrocious acts, they can't be called human. These are rare cases. More often than not the person behind the picture on the news is a normal person caught up in something either brought about by poor choices, bad luck or their own unfortunate circumstances.
The tragedy of it all is the system itself. While the media plays the story of the prosecution, the defense is usually muzzled. Defendants are advised against any statements being made in their defense lest their words be twisted and misconstrued in court. This is something I struggled with throughout my trial period, not able to dispute the claims made against me. I was tortured watching my family suffer and unable to speak out against the allegations. When that monster turns out to be someone we know, maybe even love, we are forced to take stock of what we believe. Who's telling the truth? Our beloved judicial system who upholds the law and justice in our society or the persecuted loved one who tells a different tale? Things that can tear families apart, never even considered by the media or the system that feeds fuel into the media's fire. Wouldn't it be beautiful if, in the name of justice, the D.A. could be held accountable on the same plane as the defendant? Anything they say can, and will, be held against them in a court of law?!?! Jonny
No physical evidence, an alibi, a lead detective doubting the tales told by a young man who has remained in a mental institution since his arrival in the Colorado Department of Corrections, civil rights and judicial procedures trampled upon throughout my entire case, yet here I sit. These are the haunting thoughts that cross my mind daily. Perhaps the most disturbing thing for me was the destruction of the only evidence that could exonerate me. Two of the victims in this triple homicide were elderly and were on a regular medication regiment. If these medications were found in their stomachs, it would show they were killed 5 hours earlier than my "friend" Issac claimed, when I was hours away in the company of my family. But fate would not be so kind. For six months the stomach fluids were "lost" and when they were found in another counties morgue, the specimens were in such a deteriorated state they could not be tested. How convenient. My faith in the integrity of the justice system was waining but this incident would be nothing like October 16, 2002. When a nervous 19 year old kid would confront the court and learn the lawyer he trusted had betrayed him in the worst way. The District Attorney has 180 days, after a plea is entered in a case, to bring a case to trial. It's called the defendants Right To a Speedy Trial. A law which cannot be broken without a verbal (court recorded) or written waiver from the accused. On Oct. 16 they were over a month past their deadline, my hopes were soaring. Freedom was finally at hand. I could taste the sweet nectar and its intoxicating effects. Restless nights, hours of study, all the bases were covered. I had their %$#* finally! As I made my case, butterflies taking flight in my stomach, I noticed the smirks on the D.A.'s faces, the feigned interest of the judge, as if they anticipated my move and were privy to a hidden trump card. As I completed my statement, the judge asked if that was all? "Yes", I replied. He denied my motion on the grounds that my spineless lawyer waived my right to speedy trial months before, against my will and behind my back in a private hearing, over the phone with the judge, DA and himself. Panic struck me. My heart raced as my mind tried to wrap itself around what I had just heard. Next week was my trial date. Would I be forced to represent myself? I can't do it! I try to scramble, find something! Confused, fear grips my heart. I must postpone! I must have a lawyer! Thankfully the judge rescued me from my despair and scheduled a hearing the next day, where lawyers from the Public Defenders Office could hear my complaints, help me fight! If only that were the case! These underpaid, overworked, civil servants would grill me and tell me I had no hope. Even though their office represented two men who were witnesses against me. Another kick to an already injured soul, my will to fight diminishes. Jonny
We all believe that we have laws and a system in place that will protect our rights and our children. I found out, that day, that those things do not really exist. I found out (later) that my son had been interviewed the first time at his high school, without the presence of another adult, parent or attorney. They picked my son up from his place of work, they asked him to ride with the investigator while another officer drove his car to the police station. It was at that point that my son was in custody. They came to my place of business and asked me to come to the police station as they were holding my son. They would not tell me why. When I arrived, we went through several security doors. When I was taken to the room where my son was being held, they shut the door behind us. I was told that we were free to leave at any time. They never read him MARANDA rights and they never indicated, in any way, that he was a suspect in any crime. If these things had been done, I would have been able to make better decisions for my son. If the laws that protected juveniles had been in place, my sons rights, his name and the family would have been protected. None of this happened. And at the end of the day, they took my son. His last words to me, as he cried, were "Don't worry mom, the truth always comes out." They never searched my home or my sons room. No search warrant was ever issued. They did not know who he was, where he came from or who his family was. They knew nothing except what one scared 15 year old kid said.........
Four steps turn, four steps turn...four steps turn. Again and Again I pace my cell thinking. Going on the roller-coaster ride that is my mind. Sometimes my thoughts are so bright and clear, I can see into the vast expanse of the world, similar to when the car stops at the top of the roller-coaster. You can see everything for miles and miles. With one unsettling push I'm thrown back into my seat, the air rushes past my face as I spiral into unknown depths, the twists and turns of my mind, confronting past, present and future demons, my thoughts, my companions. I have been in Administrative Segregation (ad-seg) since November 28, 2007. My first time officially ad-seged but not the first time the powers that be, who now own and control my life, have deemed it necessary to segregate me from the rest of population. Rewind to March 8, 2001. A 40 something mother pleads with the District Attorney's "investigator" for her son, who was assured when they agreed to the interview, she would be allowed to leave with her son. Only an over zealous jackass, convinced that the harrowing tale he heard hours earlier from my 15 year old friend, was true. If only he knew how mentally unstable Issac was and how many times his tale would change. I can only wonder if he would have still arrested me? A hearing is held the next day to transfer me from juvenile custody to the Park County Jail, an adult facility with no experience or accommodations for juveniles, but I am their trophy, their prize, to exhibit to all the world. Dressed up at every court hearing in bullet proof vests and chains, as one smart &*%* pig put it "We'll make you look like Hannibal Lector without the mask. I'll see if I can find you that mask." As he laughs, I only wish this nightmare would end and they would all be gone when I woke up, if only I knew it was just beginning. Park County, in its infinite wisdom, decides that rather than asking to hold me in a juvenile facility, they would keep their trophy in their segregation. One of two cells facing each other, with a shower between them, located in the back of the jail by receiving. Alone, I spent the next four months in a cell with a camera watching my every move, at first the light stayed on 24 hours a day, helping me become more disoriented, losing track of any sense of time. I am treated like a rabid animal, my food shoved through a tray slot in the door. My shower time, I am buzzed out of my cell but only after the guard places my towel and the Bob Barker soap on the floor, then retreats behind a second door. This is the first time I have ever experienced people fearing me and hating me, something I would soon grow accustomed to, but at the time I wanted to scream, "Don't be scared, I am just a kid!" Why won't anyone talk to me? What's going on? Eventually I receive visits from my family who can leave a few books to read and money, so I can buy stuff from Park County's inflated commissary, where it costs $1.20 for a hotel sized bar of Dial soap. Thus my first four months in jail were spent in fear and confusion but never again would solitude be a tool successfully employed to "control" me. I have learned to thrive, love and become immune to solitude. With that I will leave you with a quote from Schopenhauer "A man can be himself only so long as he is alone and if he does not love solitude he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free." Jonny
Today March 8, 2016 marks the 15th year since my son was swallowed by the justice system. Fifteen years of fighting, lobbying, arguing, appealing and he is not home. He was not afforded the opportunity of a judicial hearing before transfer. No one took the time to investigate who this kid was, should he be held, should he be charged as an adult. No one took the time and there were no protections. So we wait and we pace and we fight and we pray that soon the tide will change. Soon he will be home. Here is the glimpse into the life Jonny was forced to live.
I wake with alarms going off in my mind, something is not right! As the adrenaline brings me out of my slumber, I realize its too quiet...the constant humming of air being pumped into my 12 foot by 7 foot cage has stopped. I can relax, amazed at how in tune with my environment I have become, those four walls and the thoughts created within them are my constant companions. I can recall a time merely 7 years ago when I lived on a fairly busy street in Colorado Springs and not even the backfiring of a car could disturb my sleep. A time when my only concerns were what to wear to school and how soon summer would arrive. How much innocence has been lost and the reality of life thrust upon me. Not even 18, I was forced to face a judicial system that swallows up most adults, let alone a 17 year old kid. Forced to fight for my life against a beast I was not familiar with and could hardly understand. The biblical story of David and Goliath comes to mind but this tale was more Greek tragedy than a biblical story of the weak defeating overwhelming odds; I swing my sling only for the rock to miss and the giant foot of "Goliath" to smash down upon my body. Not killed, only caged for almost 4 times as long as I have already lived free (66 years) and all the pleas for help and proclamations of innocence ignored. The character 'Henry Rearden' in Ayn Rands "Atlas Shrugged" may explain my frustrations best. "Life" he thought, "had been defined as motion, mans life was purposeful motion. What was the state of a being to whom purpose and motion were denied, a being held in chains but left to breath and to see all the magnificence of the possibilities he could have reached, left to scream WHY and to be shown the muzzle of a gun as sole explanation?" A man without a purpose has no reason to exist but I have found my purpose, to share this life society forces me to live, with all who are interested and care. So return to share my story and struggles. Jonny
There have been very interesting moves in some states to address the issue of JLWOP and juvenile sentencing in general. Many are still confused as to what CAN and WILL be done to bring juvenile justice back into alignment. It is a complicated and thought provoking issue.
A fellow organization in California has been working diligently for a few years to overturn JLWOP. They have presented a bill to their legislature and it was shot down……but they never gave up. We are so pleased to announce their victory and may it lead the rest of the nation forward.
On a personal note: I believe that 25 years is still too long but I will write about that later.
Congratulations California! Please follow this link to The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth web site and their announcement concerning the legislation to end JLWOP in California and also the State Court Ruling
concerning a 110 year sentence for a youth gunman.
Next Reform For Colorado!
I join my fellow advocate The Pendulum Foundation in asking Governor Hickenlooper to Turn Back The Clock On Juvenile Sentences (click for petition). Please sign and share our petition.
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Follow this link to Jonny's Etsy Art Shop