Colbert Loses Petition for Drug Treatment; Remains Optimistic
Tyrone Colbert, who has made contributions to Port Of Harlem for almost 20 years from the Jessup Correctional Institution, was not accepted into a drug treatment program that he had hoped would lead to his leaving prison. “It was a devastating blow,” he says. “I wonder how many denials I can handle,” he continued.
The U.S. veteran is scheduled for his third parole hearing in January 2021 and the Howard County, Maryland judge who conducted the drug treatment program hearing stated that the parole commission could better handle the issue in January, reports Colbert. “The good news is that I can file as many petitions for drug treatment as I wish,” he stated optimistically. Coming this July, my friend continued, “I will be in this (incarcerated) situation for 30 years.”
Hope is coming as Maryland slowly reforms its prison system. One bill, House Bill 1219, will remove the power to parole lifers from the governor to a less-political committee. A second bill will allow inmates who have served at least twenty years to file for a reduction of sentence.
The movement of the legislation slowed when Coronavirus-19 made its debut.
Colbert, who is voracious reader, wrote that like Maryland Senator Williams Smith, Jr., who chairs the committee which oversees correctional facilities and services; criminal and civil laws, penalties, he read “Locking Up Our Own,” by James Forman, Jr. The book looks at the war on drugs and its impact on the African-American community. “I was caught up in the 1988 crack epidemic, so it really spoke to me and my situation,” Colbert said.
But how is Colbert handling the coronavirus pandemic? He reports that the prison has been on modified lockdown since the last week of May. “I have not had fresh air in almost six weeks,” he said.
For the 23 hours he is in his cell, Colbert says he reads, studies, watches the few things worth watching on TV, prays, listen to CDs, play XBOX games, and speak to Ivy, his girlfriend whom he meet through Port Of Harlem. “I also speak to family members who sound as board as I am,” he concluded. Prison officials did give the inmates soap and masks.
Some inmates lack money for the commissary, but in this aspect Colbert feels lucky. Before the modified lockdown, “I was working at MCE Furniture seven days a week with plenty of overtime. Well, most of the money went to the lawyer when I petitioned to get into the drug treatment program. However, I was able save some. So, it’s that money I am spending (in the commissary),” he concluded.
Port Of Harlem, as an inclusive and diverse magazine, began including the voices of our incarcerated brethren at the urging of the late Jennifer Smith and Azora Irby-Muntasir, who before many others living now, were involved in diverse aspects of criminal justice reform. Colbert has done his part with delivering the often complex issues of the system and we thank reader Geraldine for answering our GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his legal fees to petition the courts to allow him to enter a drug treatment program.
As the country revaluates itself on race and the criminal justice system, we at Port Of Harlem do find it gnawing that he has a life plus sentence for murder while others continue to get 10 years or less, or in the case of too many policepeople, no time at all.