1) How much time are you serving and for what crime?
I’m serving a life sentence, for kidnapping in the first degree.
2) How long have you been in prison?
I’ve been locked up since 2008. I spent one year in the County Jail and I’ve been in prison eleven years, so all together twelve years.
3) What type of opportunity would you like to see?
I would like to see more opportunities to learn life and work skills in prison here at Fort Madison. In addition, I would like to see those who work and continue to work on themselves get another chance at being a productive member of society.
4) Is education a priority in this prison?
To be honest, there are more fundraisers (food, candy and games) than there are educational opportunities. A man can come to the lowa State Penitentiary and indulge in everything except education…why because there’s an emphasis on keeping people in the same mind set so they will return. If you’re a lifer like myself, they want you to just sit back and enjoy the ‘amenities’ that you are afforded. There has been no great push to prepare inmates for their return to the outside world. Instead an emphasis has been placed on incapacitating the individual mentally so that when they return to the world they can ensure that they’re worse off than they came into
5) What about gangs, do they hinder the opportunity for oneself to improve their life?
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I’ve become a master of my environment, so the only one that can hinder me is me. I don’t allow anyone or anything to hinder my opportunity to be better and obtain my freedom.
6) Which would you rather the administration focus on improving, education or more jobs?
That’s a really good question and a really hard one also. While it’s very important to be able to work and support yourself while in prison, however I believe it’s even more important for the administration to improve on education, because if they don’t they are contributing to any rise in the recidivism rate and are just as guilty as anyone committing a crime. Considering the lack of education is one of the leading causes of criminal activity.
7) What hope do you have as far as rehabilitation?
Sweeping the question of rehabilitation under the rug is synonymous with the land field that sits next to this prison where I reside. Just like the garbage thirty feet away from me, men are being buried and forgotten, piled on top of one another to make more money. We are treated as if we are not human; in essence we are treated like trash in the landfill. Every now and then holes have to be poked into the ground to allow the methane that has built up from the decaying trash to be released. It’s the same with this prison. Every so often some big politician comes around and goes to letting off hot air about Criminal Justice Reform and rehabilitation, and prisoners get their hopes up high. Only to discover it was a political move, all hot air to appease someone somewhere. So I don’t have any hope the ISP or the government will provide any rehabilitation for me or any prisoner here at ISP. However, I have all the hope and faith in the world that I will provide self rehabilitation. Rehabilitation comes when those of us in prison decide we’re tired of being at the bottom of the social ladder. Only then will something inside us click and we began the journey down the yellow brick road and discover that everything we need to make the correction in our life was inside of use to begin with, but what do I really know, I’m just a guy in prison who sleeps next to his toilet every night!
8) What about your family support? I have more family support then some and less than others.
My mom and cousin Aaron have been the consistent support for me, everyone else pops up every now and then or doesn’t pop up at all. It is what it is, I understand no one owes me anything, so I appreciate whatever support I do get.
9) What do your kids think about you being in prison?
I’m not sure what my kids think about me being in prison. That’s a conversation that I haven’t had with them. Unfortunately I don’t have any communication with my kids at the moment. The time I have spent with my oldest daughter while incarcerated, I wanted it to be a positive and/or joyful experience because it was the first time I had seen her in over ten years, so I never made this subject the topic of any discussion and neither did she. But I’m sure they feel some type of way, and one day I will have that conversation with all my kids and allow them to express how they feel and how me being incarcerated affected them.
10) Does it get frustrating not being able to see them when you want?
Not seeing my kids is the only thing more frustrating than not seeing my mom and having a life sentence. I love all my kids more than anything and that love that I have for them, is one of the things that keeps me fighting to get out of prison.
11) What do you want the world to know about you?
That I’m truly a good person; I was just a product of a bad environment, I’ve worked extremely hard to change my way of thinking, thus I’ve changed my behavior. I also want the world to know, I stand in my truth, thus l’ve healed and moved on. I’m not the man that my crime indicates I am. I’m a man that now knows his purpose and that I’m extremely apologetic to everyone that I’ve ever hurt.
12) What about the taxpayer who says, “You deserve to be in prison,” What do you say?
I would say I agree. I’m not an unreasonable man, I believe all crime deserves some time and I believe I have done more than enough. Therefore, I would also say, “I deserve another chance to be a productive member of society, not only because I have done a large amount of time, but because I have learned from my mistakes and have truly worked on myself and/or my shortcomings. I will never be perfect, but I am definitely much better and prepared to fulfill my purpose.
13) What do you say to the people who say, “Prison isn’t meant to rehabilitate!”
To them I say… Then why do we use the term ‘Department of CORRECTIONS’? Moreover, correcting the behavior of someone is the number one purpose for someone coming to prison or at least it should be. Aside from the fact that someone committed a crime and they need to pay for it by being removed from society, the primary purpose is to ensure that while incarcerated that ‘someone’ is afforded the necessary tools while on the inside that will ensure their success when they are released. If that is not done, prison simply becomes a place to become a better criminal.
14) Do you fear you will die in prison alone?
To be honest, I’ve thought about it several times in the past, but now my reality of overturning my conviction is stronger than me dying in prison. Therefore I don’t worry or fear dying in prison alone simple because I know I won’t die in prison at all. I’ve studied the law; my case and put in the necessary work to obtain my freedom, thus I’m positive I will.
15) If someone wanted to contact you and help you, what could they do?
If anyone wants to contact me they can write to me directly at P.O. Box 319, Fort Madison IA, 52627 or contact me through Corrlinks by going to www.corrlinks.com. In addition, they can provide support by sending emails to Pat. Grassley@legis.iowa.gov, Ako.abdul email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or simply signing the attached petition and getting other signatures to support changing life sentencing for Kidnapping in lowa and/or challenging life sentences as a whole in lowa.
Show support to change life sentences for kidnapping
First and foremost, I’d be remiss not to mention the victims’ families, friends, and associates. I am not indifferent to the victims of any crime, as they have suffered enormous pain and loss, but how do we become mature to being victimized to understand that there are people serving life in prison that are deserving of a second chance?
On behalf of Lifers serving time for kidnapping in the state of Iowa, I’m writing in regard to the unreasonable sentencing guidelines. For decade’s a life sentence and/or the death penalty was preserved for those who committed the most egregious of crimes such as Murder. However here in Iowa it has been unreasonable determined that moving a body deserves the same amount of time as taking the life from a body. I understand and agree that any additional confinement or removal associated with kidnapping deserves additional time. However, life without the possibility of parole for a crime such as kidnapping, that didn’t deprive anyone of their life, is cruel and unusual punishment, Such a sentence deprives the most basic liberties without giving hope of restoration which does not mitigate the harshness of the sentence. This means denial of hope, and that good behavior and character improvement are immaterial. Therefore, it’s desirable to consider restricting the sentencing guidelines for kidnapping first.
The ideology of getting tough on crime never materialized as we all know, thus rehabilitation as a goal of punishment is necessary instead of trapping man and woman in the system, written off and forgotten. My hopes in writing this is very simple, to convey this one idea, A man (who has and will commit atrocities against America) (ISIS leader) can be released from Guantanamo Bay and given a second chance not only at life, but to take life. Then surely those setting In Iowa’s prisons convicted of kidnapping that haven’t taken a life and have worked to change their very own life are deserving of a second chance as well.
Inmates convicted of kidnapping here in Iowa are respectfully asking for some compassion, respect, dignity, and mercy and humaneness. Because the determination that a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is “in its application cruel since at its core is the brutality of extermination “As this sentence is the only non-capital sentence that wholly rejects rehabilitation as a goal of punishment, and by definition requires that the offender die in prison. Therefore, in the name of fairness, inmates respectfully request your support in moving the legislators away from the mandatory life sentence without any possibility of parole for first degree kidnapping.
If you think this is a worthy issue, please sign this petition and show your support. Thanks for your time and consideration.
By Micah Matthews