Black men born in the U.S are fortunate if they live past the age of 25 and are conditioned to accept the inevitability of doing time in prison. For most of the U.S, it is simply a statistic. Being born a slave in a captive society and not having expectations prepared me for progressively traumatic misfortunes that led so many Black men to the prison gate. I was not prepared for prison.
I am an African-American man incarcerated in the State of Virginia serving a 30-year prison sentence for a non-violent crime.
I was born in Richmond, Virginia, but was arrested in New Kent County for possession of 1.77 grams of crack cocaine, which had a street value of less than $100. At my trial, I was found guilty by an all-White jury, including a retired state trooper, who came up with the 30-year sentence even though the prosecution had recommended a ten-year sentence. Ultimately the decision was up to the presiding judge.
Prior to this case the only bad decision I made was allowing someone who I thought was my friend to borrow my car. He used it to sell drugs to an informant, who let him provide testimony against me in exchange for a ticket for driving with a suspended license.
During the sentencing, the presiding judge issued lighter sentences to other people who were indicted and found guilty on felony distribution charges. For example, one man convicted of five counts of felony drug distribution got a one-and-a-half-year sentence and work release. The difference between that man and me was the color of our skin.
I have been in prison since May 27, 2009. The system I am in is still treating me unjustly; recently I was transferred to Red Onion State Prison, a maximum-security prison. The men here have life terms with nothing to lose, and the guards treat the Black males worse than you could imagine. I have managed to stay out of trouble during my prison sentence and managed to get my GED high school equivalency degree.
My sons were one and two years old at the time, and I have missed out on so much of their lives. My mom passed away due to COVID-19 this past year; I will never get the chance to spend time with her. She never got to see me as a free man, something she wanted more than anything.
When the judge sentenced me to 30 years, he not only ruined my life but my family’s as well. If I had been of any other race, I would have been a free man years ago. I deserve a chance at the life I do have left to be a free man. African-American lives are deemed disposable, stored in human warehouses known as prison.
If Black lives matter, those of us discarded and condemned to decades in prison should also be included in this nationwide discussion.
Thank you for reading Jerod’s story. He would like to file a motion for resentencing.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.