By Uhuru B. Rowe
January 10, 2017
Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you-all the best on your personal and professional endeavors.
I am calling on ALL concerned citizens who believe in justice, fairness and second chances to please GET ORGANIZED around my struggle to regain my freedom and help make 2017 my last year in prison.
Past New Years have always presented an interesting emotional and psychological paradox for me. On the one hand, I viewed it as a time for me to be thankful I’ve survived one year and lived to see the next; on the other hand, it’s usually a time when I feel profoundly alone and depressed because it represents yet another year I remain confined in a prison cell away from my family, friends and community. I’ve been confronted with this paradox the previous 21 New Years.
But 2017, which marks my 22nd year of incarceration, FEELS different. Maybe all the years I’ve spent inside a concrete box has made me irrational; maybe a bit delusional. But, my newfound optimism feels justified. It’s rooted in the rising tide of opposition–inside and outside of prisons–against the criminalization, mass incarceration/warehousing, and disenfranchisement of poor people and people of color, which amounts to, what Michelle Alexander has coined, “The New Jim Crow.”
An assistant to one of my political supporters recently informed me that my clemency petition has reach the last level of the review process. It is now sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his final decision!
You may say this is not particularly exciting news. However, consider this: All previous petitions I’ve filed failed to survive the rigid multi-tiered screening process and were denied within a year. The current petition has been pending for two and one-half years and survived multiple tiers to make it to the Governor’s desk. Sounds promising, right?
Maybe the apparent success of this petition is due, in part, to it being filed by an attorney this time around. Or, because of my political support. Or, because of the volume of letters written on my behalf by family and friends urging the Governor to grant me clemency. Or, maybe it’s because the Governor understands the so-called criminal justice system in Virginia (VA) is unfair and unjust, especially in its dealings with poor people and people of color. He’s said as much on several occasions.
Governor Terence R. McAullife, a Democratic, is the first governor since parole was abolished in 1995 to seriously push for the reinstatement of parole when he, on June 24, 2015, established the Commission on Parole Review (vpb.virginia.gov/parolecommission/index.html). This bi-partisan Commission was meant to be a platform for state politicians, faith leaders, community organizations, professionals, and concerned citizens to discuss how parole could safely be reinstated without compromising public safety and to make recommendations to that affect. That did not happen. Why? Because of entrenched racism which has plagued the political and judicial arena in VA for decades.
The Commission, which could have been a positive turning point in VA’s legal system, ended up being a disaster because 1) state republicans opposed the creation of the Commission, 2) state republicans were and are aggressively opposed to the idea of parole reinstatement since 1995, and as a result, 3) the issue of parole reinstatement was never fully discussed or fairly explored during the five Commission meetings held between July 20, 2015 and December 18, 2015.
During a Commission meeting on October 26, 2015, state Delegate Dave Albo, one of the staunchest Republican proponents of parole abolition, said that Republican members of the General Assembly will NEVER vote to reinstate parole or to implement any modifications to the current system. This has been the dominant mentality of Republicans here in VA which has chocked the life out of any attempt at much needed criminal justice reform.
Republicans also opposed Gov. McAuliffe’s April 2016 Execuitive Order, which summarily restored the civil rights of over 200,000 convicted felons here in the so-called Commonwealth. They sued him, and the Supreme Court of VA, bowing to political pressure, nullified this Executive Order, relegating 200,000 convicted and disenfranchised people, who have paid their debts to society, back to the level of second-class citizens.
Gov. McAuliffe– whose term in office ends in January 2018– represents an oasis for unjustly convicted, excessively sentenced, and long-term, rehabilitated incarcerated people fighting for our freedom. Barring a change in the law, Gov. McAuliffe may be my last hope of freedom.
You can help me by contacting the Governor on my behalf at the contact info below and urge him to grant me a conditional pardon or commutation of my sentence.Talk about how you are positively impacted by my writings, that I deserve a second chance, and that my sentence of 93 years without parole is excessive. Additional insight on my case and history can be found by searching on my blog for a post titled “21 Years A Prisoner” or by going to http://www.sfbayview.com/2015/09/my-struggle-for-freedom-in-the-midst-of-virginia-s-truth-in-sentencing-and-abolition-of-parole-laws/
1) Write to Governor Terence R.
McAuliffe at 1111 East Broad St.,
Patrick Henry Bldg., 3rd Floor,
Richmond, VA 23219, or
2) Call him at (804) 786-2211, or
3) Fax him at (804) 371-6351, or
4) E-mail him at
Note: Please reference my former name (Brian L. Rowe) as an AKA (Also Known As), in addition to my new name, in your emails, letters, faxes, calls, etc. Please forward copies of your emails and faxes to my yahoo email and copies of written letters to my address below. Thanks for your support.
Uhuru Rowe #1131545
24427 Musselwhite Dr.
Waverly, VA 23891