Thirty-One Years and Counting Inside the Belly of the Beast

by VERONZA BOWERS, Jr.

I send each and every one of you my very warmest greeting from 31 years deep inside of the Belly of the Beast.

As you know, I’m a former member of the original Black Panther Party, and even though government officials claim that there are no political prisoners in this country’s prisons and jails, it’s simply not true. Having already "served" over three decades in continuous custody in federal prison, I’m one of the longest held political prisoners in the U.S. of A. There are quite a number of us scattered about & but that’s a very long story.

Picture this in your mind … if you dare:

After 30 years of being denied release on parole, despite the fact that your conduct has been exemplary for over 20 years and you have long since met the criteria to be released on parole, finally your mandatory release date rolls around. April 7, 2004. Everything is set.

Your daughter, who was 5 years old when you were taken away to prison and is now 36, sent you a top-of-the-line fashion suit of clothes so that you would be properly dressed to "step in the name of freedom with love." She along with three of your sisters fly in from across the country to be there at the prison gate to pick you up. In fact, there will be a whole entourage of dear friends and well-wishers who will be out in front of the prison with plans to all gather at the home of a friend about an hour’s new red Cadillac’s ride away.

A grand celebration is planned: a big cook-out at which your godmother had cooked hot-wings and home-made strawberry cheesecake. Another friend, from Tonga, in keeping with their cultural traditions, has roasted underground several baby pigs. Others are bringing all kinds of foods.

There will be a live band playing jazz and blues, a swimming pool, etc., etc., etc. In a word, a lot of caring people have gone though a lot of effort, not to mention expense, to welcome you in their brave new world far removed from the world of prison walls that had kept you on ice for so long. They are there to welcome you with unconditional love and support.

On the inside of the prison, there has been a "going home" gathering put together by friends, replete with food, music, and emotion-filled, open-hearted, teary-eyed talk and laughter. Everyone came together to wish you well and a prosperous new life.

You’d given away to friends all of your possessions: watch, alarm clock, sweat clothes, running shorts and tennis shoes, handballs, weightlifting belt, visiting clothes and shoes, commissary items, rain poncho and winter coat. The only things you kept were your Taipei Shakuhachi silver flute and some books.

You’d used up all of your 300-for-the-month telephone calling minutes because after April 6 you wouldn’t be needing any more from the BOP. You’d made the rounds, shaking hands and hugging so many men you’d probably never see again. You’d even tried to give words of encouragement and hope to young and old men alike who you were leaving behind in very desperate and hopeless situations.

Yes, the time was growing near you to leave the world of concrete and steel and razor wire and gun towers–the land of the living dead–and you were very happy and at the same time very sad.

The last "official thing" that you were required to do, you did. All prisoners, on the day before their actual release date, are required to "go on the merry-go-round," i.e., you must take a check-out form around to each department head for their signature, which means that you are cleared of all obligations to that department. Everything is all set to and good to go.

After doing all of that, you’re sitting outside in the Sweat Lodge area with your two closest friends just enjoying each other’s company in SILENCE. A loud announcement over the loudspeaker ordering you to "report to your unit-team immediately" breaks your peace. You know that something is not right. Your sixth sense–maybe even a seventh–lets you know the "hidden" right away.

As you walk into your counselor’s office, you know what he’s about to say, even before he says it. So you focus upon that one thing that has sustained you and always pulled you though the roughest of times–even pulled you though those time when knife blades were slashing at flesh, when bullets were flying through the air trying to find your body, when you learned of the passing of your Dear Mama and the officials wouldn’t allow you to attend her funeral even though you had only seven months left until your Mandatory Release date–yeah & one breath at a time.

"You won’t be leaving tomorrow."

You already knew that, but you didn’t know why & so you breathe deeply, one full breath, two full breaths. A strange silence fills the room, and since it’s quite obvious that some reaction is expected of/from/by you, you just continue focusing upon the Breath. "Why?"

"Well, all we know is that the National Parole Commission called the institution and ordered that you not be released tomorrow. The warden is very upset and he’s been on the phone with them all day trying to get some clarity."

Just like that! A simple phone call from a National Commissioner in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and all of the plans for you to be "steppin’ in the name of freedom, with love" are cancelled, wiped out, voided until further notice.

How do you feel? Me, too!

Since that terrible day, with the help of some friends here, I put together a very good draft of an Emergency Petition Unlawful Detention Beyond April 7, 2004, His Statutory/Mandatory Release Date Under 18 U.S.C. 4206 (d.).

I tried to get the prestigious law firm of Willie E. Gary to take my case. To date, I don’t know whether his firm will get involved.

On May 2, I met in the visiting room with attorney Gilda Sherrod-Ali of Washington, D.C., and presented her with the draft of my 2241 motion. We discussed it at length and it was agreed that she would file it in the U.S. District Court in Ocala, Florida. It will go before Judge Hodges, the same judge who denied and dismissed my last action against the Parole Commission. My situation now is that I am being held in prison UNLAWFULLY since my Mandatory Release date of April 7, 2004.

So that’s about it from this side of hell, my friends. I want to thank you with all of my heart, all of the love, concern and support you’ve given me.

I know that in the past whenever the call went out for financial contributions to cover attorney fees, you didn’t hesitate. I have to ask again. There will be one more round and unfortunately there are not many lawyers around like it was in the ’60s. So please, any contribution you can spare for my legal defense fund will be greatly appreciated.

I remain steadfast and looking toward a better future for us all.

Learn more about Veronza at www.veronza.org. And he would love to hear from you. Write to:
VERONZA BOWERS, Jr., #35316-136,
FCC, Medium C-1, P.O.
Box 1032, Coleman FL 33521-1032
or email veronzab@yahoo.com and include your return address.

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