I Am Not My Charge, by Rodney Fenner

Hello world. Virginia’s Special Session began two days ago and among the many topics of discussion are two bills that would significantly change the way prisoners earn good time and bring back parole in Virginia. There will always be opposition to change of any kind, however, the opposition to these bills doesn’t seem to be coming from a logical, reasonable standpoint. People are citing the charges of prisoners as reason why nothing should happen in their favor. The flaw in that is that you’re not seeing the PERSON. The human being. The message you’re sending to society is if you make a mistake that lands you in the system, the rest of your life BECOMES that mistake. You and your charge are synonymous. You are now incapable of right thought and right action. You are irretrievably broken. But, that is not so because we are people. We grow and change just like everyone else. We do learn from our mistakes. I am NOT my charge. For a moment, let’s remove all barriers such as age, race, religion and politics. I am YOUR son. Despite my charge, you know my heart. You know my mind. Yes, the road of my life has had potholes of my own creation, however, you can see my growth and my destination because you know me as a man. For you, everything I’ve worked to be and everything I am as a man isn’t subsumed by the label of prisoner or offender. Wouldn’t you want me HOME? Doesn’t your SON deserve a second chance? At its most basic level, doesn’t he at least deserve forgiveness? If God forgives all, who are we not to forgive each other? We as people have to assume that those we elect to serve us, believe that the system they work for works. If you work for our government and you truly believe the system works, why not release those who’ve been through it? If you work for the system and do not believe it works, your goal should be to change it so that it does. I ardently urge our lawmakers to wipe clean any preconceived notions of prisoners, relieve yourself of the perspective of your politics and use only the purest of your logic and reason. Use the intuition of your humanity. See us as people, with lives and families. See us not as irredeemable, but as human beings who grow and change from the experience of life the same way you did. The same way you STILL do. Find a way to evaluate us as individuals and not as a smear in the broad stroke we were painted with. We are not our charges. Peace.

Rodney Fenner
DOC #1436377

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