(Part 3 of 3)
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There are steps you can take to avoid being on the receiving end of inmate hate. No, I donâ€™t stand to gain personally by your doing so. Neither am I going to try and sell you some sort of prisoner hate-level-monitor-gadget, and throw in a free pair of ex-con-detection-goggles if you order now. A letter or simple phone call will do. (Details below.) And I should say that alongside abusive guards who take the law in their own hands are some very conscientious prison personnel who dutifully go about their work in a very professional manner. Likewise, among schoolmates of Tshaka Ali are some pretty impressive people. For example, multiple Grammy nominated Patrice Rushen was in the world famous Locke High School band with Tshaka Ali, then known as Ronald Hubbard.
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And though Tshaka eventually found himself on the other side of the law, several of our schoolmates from as far back as Gompers Junior High School became noted members of the law enforcement community. Attorneys Leo Youngblood and Ron White have been practicing law for years now. Retired Los Angeles Police Department Detective William Sweeney and another schoolmate from junior high were cops for over a combined total of sixty years. Even the son of Julius Janise (Julius was our student body president at Gompers and fellow Locke High School award-winning band member of Oriental Cherry, famous musicians Fritz Wise and Michael Nash, and others) is with LAPD. Standout schoolmates in other professions are Lois Bradford (UTLA/NEA Vice President); Beverly Ford (teacher); Eddie Murray (former Dodger, Hall-Of-Famer); Kenneth Ferris (bank executive), Larry Robinson (actor), and a host of others. In fact, itâ€™s rumored that the class of â€™72 was the most talented to have graduated from Locke.
Finally, there is the veteran Superior Court Judge Barbara Pickens-Johnson, our classmate from junior high. As you can see, Tshaka came from good company. Still, he made a grave error and is paying the price. Still, itâ€™s illegal for sworn personnel of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to abuse him and other prisoners. â€œUnfortunately,â€ he writes, â€œsome [of what is] documented ultimately adversely affects the involved inmate in that he inadvertently responds to sworn personnelâ€™s inappropriate behavior, which enables them to document partial truth as â€˜the whole truth.â€™ The aforementioned behavior patterns provide an avenue for sworn personnel to blatantly disregard their sworn oath, moral obligation and ethical consciousness without reproach. When an inmate displays behavior patterns other than the aforementionedâ€”he is deemed a threat.â€Â
Indeed, according to one source, â€œIn 2004, a Corrections Independent Review Panel appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and led by former Governor George Deukmejian noted â€˜Californiaâ€™s $6 billion correctional system suffers from a multitude of problemsâ€”out-of-control costs; a recidivism rate far exceeding that of any other state; reported abuse of inmates by correctional officers; [and] an employee disciplinary system that fails to punish wrongdoers.â€™â€
Also connected to our injustice system for Blacks are harsher sentences. Take the case of Trevielle J. Craig who is serving a term of Life Without the Possibility of Parole at Lancaster State Prison. In a letter to me he wrote the following: â€œMy sentence stems from the Rodney King Riot.Â I am aware that every year there are countless stories reported about the riot and its aftermath. I was convicted of a controversial first degree murder, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon (a stick), in an exaggerated portrayal of a fist fight. As a result of the heightened political climate during the riot, the charges against me were elevated; my case was made a stepping stone for the prosecutor who was awarded District Attorney of the year, all while I was simply over charged, egregiously.
â€œAll the witnesses at the trialâ€¦expressed to me and my family after trial that my case was [an] injustice. I admitted to attempted murder on Victor Medina, who survived after our fight. But Elija Garcia [who] was struck once in the head with my fist later died. The prosecutor maintains the victim was hit with a stick [with] one single blow [and] 9 months later died.â€ Case closed. Trevielle goes on to state whatâ€™s unique about his case insofar as the Rodney King riots are concerned. â€œThere were three murder convictions during the riot,â€ he attests. One was committed by a juvenile who served two years. Another was later deemed unrelated to the riot. â€œI am the only person still serving time for any crime related to the riots.â€ He was sentenced at age 17.
â€œMy conviction is based on a young Latino boyâ€™s wavering testimony, who admitted that he didnâ€™t see or hear anything he told the detectives. Nor could he hold a conversation in Englishâ€¦He claimed he could clearly hear me say â€˜Give me your wallet,â€™ during his testimony. The jury asked for a reread of the testimony during deliberations to try to evaluate what he heard, and a few hours later returned a guilty verdict.â€ He continues, â€œThe real travesty in the entire ordeal is that I basically had two prosecutors against me. Shelly Samuels, the States District Attorney, and my lawyer. A lawyer who failed to file any motions for my defense, save perfunctory ones. He missed a court date, complained about my familyâ€™s struggle to pay him in open court and presented no evidence on my behalf. In sum, he dumped me.â€
What can you do? Request a retrial for Trevielle by contacting Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, 210 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 974-3903. Ask that Tshaka Ali be release from the hole by contacting the California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814, (916) 653-6814. For, as Tshaka Ali put it, â€œSociety must check the balance in government and its components; and this can be accomplished â€˜onlyâ€™ through constant vigilance. When society dismisses the importance to checkâ€”society ultimately pays. Please convey the plight of prisoners to the public, without relent.â€ Amen.