My name is James B. Liptrot, Prison number 144170
Dreams are real
We dream from within,
We see in our mind what can be,
Put aside fear, allow love to lead, live what you feel,
Who are we? What are we? If not a part of forever,
Draw upon the ages of Life from which we came,
There’s joy, there’s rage, there’s life, There’s death, There’s Love,
Within all sits the Spirit of us,
Each in our dream, connected just the same, Dream from Life, Grow in it, touch it, be it, after all, it is us.
In part one, I talked about not living. It was not until after I woke up from the overdose that life had real meaning for me.
I know it sounds corny, the truth usually does. At any rate, it was like I came out of a deep fog, and I was finally able to see and feel the truth of us as human beings. I am still growing into myself.
After the overdose, how my actions affected others started to matter. I became more relaxed in my decision making, whereas before I acted without thinking. My mother said the overdose allowed God to remove the stuff in me that was holding me back.
I really do believe that. I was able to grow up mentally because the grace and mercy of God saw me as worthy, and from that day I slowly grew into manhood. It was a higher power at work.
I went from a boy who got into fights often, to a man who talked others out of fighting before anyone got hurt. The anger that ate at me was gone, and I was able to just be honest with myself and everyone I came in contact with. I grew from there. I found that in prison, human beings are oftentimes pushed into misery, rather than pushed into being optimistic.
In prison, there’s a mental torture that pulls sorrow from the deepest part of us, and is part of why a lot of people in prison have issues dealing with anger.
When given Life in prison, be it first degree or second degree, it is the equivalent of a death sentence. I would know because I have been here for 45 years.
For me personally it is not so much the physical lockdown that eats me alive, even though it has an effect, but being kept alive without being able to really be a part of living.
But more so, it is not having any real hope. If someone is told to go die in prison slowly over thirty, forty, or fifty years, long after the person is no longer a threat to commit crimes, long after the person has grown out of the mental mind set of thinking and acting like a criminal, as it is shown in study after study, then why would they have hope?
There’s just a sadness that hangs over a person given life with no light ahead to lead the way out of this darkness that covers everything even with the lights on in the daytime.
In Michigan, the parole board has been given the power to decide who dies in prison, and who gets the chance. That is why a cap on life sentences is the right thing to do. It is justice. It will give people the push needed to really try and grow into a better human being.
It can be set up like this: If convicted of first degree murder, start at 20 years cap on the low end. Depending on the circumstances go up to 30 or 40 years. Twenty to forty years with a chance to earn time off by getting a GED, or going to college. You can also get time off by earning a trade or two.
That will take the torture of not knowing out of it. As a person grows, he or she will know that their time is what it is, no longer a guessing game with the parole board.
On second degree murder cap it at 10 years. If the circumstances are extreme, then have it where it can pass 10 years, say 10 to 20 years.
What happened in the George Floyd Case, set it up like that.
In terms of my personal story, I’m not the only one who grew up and changed. I know a lot of men in here who have grown up from the boy who came into the broken prison system with no direction. We can do so much better, and take the torture out of the system by putting a cap on convictions that carry life sentenences.
I think back to the times when I started trouble, trying to get someone to kill me. That kind of mental anguish can never be fully explained. I was in a hopeless situation. I did everything the parole board asked. I grew up, I took full responsibility for my case, and I learned how to deal with anger.
I learned that there’s always going to be times when anger will show up, it’s just another part of our make-up. It’s what we do after we get angry that counts.
I learned that as I grow more in tune with the nature of my manhood, I have a duty to get out and volunteer at youth centers for troubled young people. Some will listen and change for the better. Some will not.
But the parole board cuts the legs out from under me and everyone else for no other reason but that they can. They can because there’s no cap on how long they can just keep refusing to give so many of us a second chance.
I was an 18 year old juvenile in 1975 when I agreed to be the look-out for what was supposed to have been an unarmed robbery. There was never any intention to kill the victim.
Should I die in prison?
If prisoners have light at the end of the tunnel, then they would have a reason to better themselves. The new guys coming in would see people getting better, and learning trades to lower their sentence, and know that they could do that too. That’s hope. These same prisoners would want to help others avoid prison once they got out.
It is important that everybody really understands what’s going on. The punishment for committing crimes is being locked up away from family. Not being able to protect a younger brother or sister. The punishment is hearing about Big Mama’s 94th birthday party and not being able to be there.
The punishment is being kept alive with no hope at being able to be a real part of living because with no cap, the parole board can play god, and hold a person long after he or she is ready for release.
Give people a reason to fight for freedom, mental freedom as well as physical, and the time in prison will be much more than just a warehouse type situation.
A lot of good people have said to me, why should I give a damn when the good folks who put me in prison don’t care?
Over 45 years, I’ve grown to where my mental pain comes from the not knowing if the board will decide Michigan does have the death penalty for me.
On a normal day, I get up between 5:30 to 6:00, thank god for another day to continue to grow, get a shower, take my high blood-pressure pills, go workout for about a hour 3-times a week, take another longer shower this time, go outside and read for about a hour, then go talk with some men. Sometimes someone will come by and ask me to talk with someone about a misunderstanding that could lead to someone getting hurt.
I never go to eat in the chow-hall. Some of the guys who fix the food are not very clean. So, I fix myself something light, then go on the phone to check on family, or send an email to one or two of the groups working with me on trying to get me out. In the evening, I take my radio and go walk a few miles. That’s when I don’t have a job. At about 6pm in the evening, I will fix something to eat, maybe rice, beans, and fish. I’ll walk for maybe half an hour, then go watch a little TV. By 10pm at night, I’m asleep.
I’m mostly by myself. I cannot go to prison where I do not know a lot of the guys, but I just don’t do the group thing. Sure, I speak with some guys in passing, but I’m trying to get out. Anything outside of that, I’m not interested in.
Please feel free to write me, and include a return address so I can write back
James B. Liptrot 144170.