I am writing to �Letters to the Editor� asking to voice my opinion on current articles written in the Oct 21 issue of The Columbus Packet. I am currently incarcerated with MDOC, serving life because of being accused of murder. I am a first time offender, never been in trouble before this incident and because of the 85% law, I will have to serve 42 mandatory years before I am eligible to �petition� the Courts for my release. Yet the way the law is wrote no person gets the same amount of time for the same charge even though it is suppose to be a �mandated� sentence. Your age governs how long you will serve this sentence.
I am from Columbus, lived there all my life. Worked everyday to support my wife and daughter. I was an Eagle Scout with full honors, Vigil member of The Order of the Arrow, participated in running a scout troop with my father, Kelly Smith, whom passed away in 2004. I served my country receiving an Honorable discharge from the ARMY; yet protecting myself in my own home got me life. I turned 23 the day I entered Parchman, MS, now I am 35. I have missed my daughter growing up and now I am a grandfather of twins, whose life I am missing too. I guess all of this makes me a bad person, even to the point of being called a threat to the community, which the Asst. D.A. called me even though I was out on bond for a year and twelve days before I ever went to trial.
Our elected officials are supposed to uphold the laws, seek truth and fairness. Well, as the saying goes, �your guilty until you can prove yourself innocent�, that is the way the system works. I will not mention many names if any at all because we all know, if you ruffle feathers you�re likely to get pecked. However, if the public were aware of how the system truly works instead of only reading what it wants you to know, then you would be appalled. I will not say all Judges, D.A.�s and Lawyers are bad because there are some out there who take their Oaths to heart and seek Justice, Truth & Fairness. Nevertheless, there are some who take advantages of the positions they are given, making a pint to max out sentences in front of them as if they are on a personal vendetta. Some lawyers even work with the system, against there clients best interest, for favors and deal agreements later. Like having an ace in their sleeve for later games so to speak. So how is a fairness given to those of us paying for their services, whcih we do not get? All of their �track� records speak the truths.
What I am getting at is this, the public needs to know the truth about how it really works. This is not like TV where the good person always wins. As has been brought to the public�s attention, not only in Mississippi, but also all over the United State, many innocents in prison were wrongly accused. The 85% law was brought in affect by many states and of course, Mississippi jumped on the bandwagon. Answer me this though, why are we one of the only states who still have the 85% law? It is a question even our legislature has started asking. All the other states realized it strained their already over crowded system and the facts of the matter are, there are still the same amount of crimes being committed and criminals. Really think about it and while you do realize this, everyone is paying for it, you, me, and families all because the maximum sentences being handed down. Look up the percentage of people in Mississippi who have served time, been given probations, and are currently serving time. The numbers would astound you being they are per capita, more than half the state.
We truly need to think of all this. I mean look at me, I defended myself in my own home, and yes, there were other options at the time now that I look back but 20/20 hindsight does us no good in life. Either way I made a mistake, have lived with it for 13 years, served time day for day for twelve years and will live with it for the rest of my life. When will it end? When will the laws change? I know what you are saying, �the laws change every year�. Well your right, they steadily let the drug dealers out early, thieves, etc� but do nothing for the mandatory sentences or extremely long sentences. Locking us up and throwing away the key. I have served 12 years day for day with a clean record, finished trade school, worked not only in maintenance but also as an ABE/GED tutor & librarian. Also taken correspondence courses through Ohio University, which my family has paid for themselves. All of this I have done Since Jan 5th 2001. Yet it gives me no relief to my sentence as it does others. It seems the state only wants to release those who stay in trouble or are more apt to return.
Here is an example of the unfairness of the laws. Manslaughter & Murder are the same thing except for the way they are worded in law. Why do you get time off for one yet not the other? You get month for month for manslaughter cutting your time in half, usually because you took a plea to the �lesser� charge because the DA and lawyers tell you it is your best out. Get twenty years, you serve around nine and you are out. If you do not take it, your will get life. You may ask, why then did I not take the plea, it is because I am not guilty of the charge against me and I was advised by my paid Lawyer not to, �we have this beat because you�re not guilty of said charge,� he informed me. Yet I am serving life, lost my family, friends and unless the laws change I will serve till I am at least 65 yrs old, all because of one mistake in life.
There is no rehabilitation in the system, do your time then we will throw you back into society with nothing. That is if we will ever release you in the first place. MDOC makes statements where they say the system works. Well look at the numbers, how is it working when there is the same if not more people being sentenced everyday to replace the few that are getting out.
The public needs to look into the system. There are websites, and groups of concerned citizens speaking on the need to change the 85% law. The legislature brings it up every session yet it keeps being shot down. Why is this, MDOC makes too much money on us to release us that is why. This law has affected everyone and by this, I mean not only the victims but also the families of the convicted. Does not a man or woman convicted of a first time offense deserve to prove him or herself of rehabilitation and given a second chance? Are we not a Country & State that believes in fairness and chances? So please look into these matters, get with our Representatives, read the articles of concerned citizens supporting the need for change. This is not only for the 85% law, but for all the laws and reasons we should elect/re-elect or not elect/re-elect certain public servants.
Respectfully submitted Christopher Smith W.C.C.R.F.0