30 June, 2018


           Paul Tillich, in The Courage To Be, described “courage” as “the power of the mind to overcome fear.” I can add that courage is the power to overcome apathy that is prevalent in our society. Courage is also the power to overcome ignorance that is also common among us. Many of us lack courage and often ignore injustices. I often tell myself: “Jerome, you must stop being vocal and speaking on controversial issues. Jerome, you should remain quiet and let others fight these battles.” Despite these concerns, I always continue to be involved in campaigns and movements that highlight grievances, injustices, and exploitation. It seemed like fate and my destiny to be involved in the urgent demands for justice and equality.

          The global calendar of activism has another addition. Yes, 29 August 2018 is a major milestone. It will be the first observance of the “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Day. The “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Day was conceptualized soon after learning that an incarcerated friend (who I never met) in the United States, was unfairly denied parole. Despite undergoing major positive changes in his thinking and behavior, the Parole Board rejected his request for freedom.

          I challenge everyone to prove that equality and fairness will never be achieved. I remember two sentences that we need to consider: “Men don’t want new groups. Men just want things to be fair.” This was stated by Martin G. Ramey, a columnist and ordained minister, in Diane A. Sears’ book, In Search of Fatherhood: Transcending Boundaries (2003, p.135). This is a basic human right -- to be treated fairly. It is the major building block in creating a just society. A country is not democratic if its citizens are treated unfairly. Fair treatment is essential in any progressive society. Ms. Diane A. Sears, a Social Justice Contributing Author for the Good Men Project and a member of the OPERATION FRESH START™ Working Group which raises awareness for OPERATION FRESH START™ -- a multi-tiered initiative which helps to eradicate recidivism and creates pathways to reintegration for formerly incarcerated individuals and is crafted by The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a veteran jurist in the Criminal Court Division of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court in the United States --, is assisting in spearheading the “Impartial and Fair Treatment in Parole” Initiative. In September 2017, Ms. Sears via social media, noted that this Initiative

“advocates for and supports individuals, organizations, and institutions working to ensure that model prisoners who have (A) accepted responsibility for the actions which brought them to prison; (B) demonstrated a positive adjustment to institutionalization; (C) achieve academically; (D) obtained employment skills and/or a written offer of employment and community ties; (E) received/accepted invitations to assume leadership roles in academic, mentoring, public policy or social entrepreneurial activities that enhance the institutional environment and positively impact communities outside of the institutional environment; (E) a track record of designing and/or co-implementing and/or participating in solutions-based initiatives (e.g., atonement programs, domestic violence workshops, mentoring programs, and programs/forums which specifically help to minimize/eradicate violence, Fatherlessness, poverty, emotional/spiritual/psychological trauma and toxicity, recidivism, and crime); and (F) low risk assessment scores (COMPAS); are not repeatedly denied parole and that Parole Boards are not acting as an appellate sentencing court in denying parole to model prisoners who meet all or many of the aforementioned criteria.”

I am sure that there will be increasing support for this initiative and observances of “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Day on 29 August 2018.

          Paul Tillich described “fear” as “being afraid of something, a pain, the rejection by a person or a group, the loss of something or somebody, the moment of dying.” Some of us do not have the courage to speak for the alienated and marginalized in our society. Some of us do not possess the virtue of courage to identify with stereotyped and stigmatized persons who are incarcerated or have been imprisoned. Many of us do not care to identify with the imprisoned. Let us never forget the words of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and American Civil Rights Movement Leader Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

          Let us join together to promote fairness and equal treatment among the free and incarcerated.

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