30-Year Sentence Ended – Why is Model Prisoner Behind Bars?

From: ThatPRGuy.com
Published: Tue Oct 04 2005

COLEMAN, Fla. – Concerned citizens across the country are calling upon the U.S. Parole Commission to approve the release of Veronza Bowers, Jr. who remains in prison 18 months past the expiration of a 30-year sentence he had already completed serving.

Mr. Bowers, a model prisoner lauded by prison officials, was scheduled for mandatory parole on April 7, 2004. Mandatory parole is required by statute after a prisoner has completed his full sentence if a record of positive institutional adjustment is achieved and the inmate is not considered to be a "threat to society" upon release.

Four different Parole Examiners, as well as the U.S. Parole Commission (USPC) itself, the most powerful parole authority in the nation, agree that Mr. Bowers has complied with these prerequisites. In spite of this, just minutes before his April 7th release, the USPC rescinded his parole at the request of a law enforcement lobby group known as the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which claimed to have evidence that Bowers had violated prison rules. At a subsequent hearing, FOP claims were dismissed as unsubstantiated and a new parole date was set. After the hearing, the national president of the FOP stated that he was "appalled" by the USPC decision to release Mr. Bowers, and that the FOP "must act to protect the public from the U.S. Parole Commission." The FOP then lobbied the U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, to intervene and, as a result, Mr. Bowers has languished in prison over 18 months past his scheduled release date.

How is it possible for a U.S. citizen to serve his complete sentence under the law and still be held in prison this long after his sentence expires? This is particularly baffling in the case of Veronza Bowers, Jr., who has exhibited unique abilities to help others and improve himself on all levels during more than 30 years of incarceration.

To many, his accomplishments in prison are nothing short of astounding. Deeply committed to a spiritual faith and practice, Mr. Bowers founded and led the All-Faith Meditation Group. An interest in healing motivated him to study the ancient healing arts and philosophy of China and Japan. He has helped inmates both physically and spiritually overcome obstacles to their health and personal development. Mr. Bowers has also been honored by the Native American community as an honorary elder for his support and teaching of their spiritual and cultural practices.

On a daily basis, he has worked with at-risk youth, inmates with anger-management problems and as a mentor and tutor for prisoners with learning disabilities. Numerous prison officials have relied on him as an intermediary in dealing with the most difficult inmates. At one facility, Mr. Bowers helped to disarm a fellow inmate and save a prison guard from harm. He was given a letter of commendation for this intervention.

Mr. Bowers has served the last twenty-one years of his incarceration without a single violation of prison rules or "incident report", an accomplishment that is virtually unheard of. His efforts to gain parole have been supported by numerous prison officials, attorneys, former members of regional and the U.S. Parole Commission itself and even a member of the U.S. Congress. He has the support of distinguished professionals and public servants most of whom have never before advocated for a prison inmate.

Mr. Bowers was convicted in the murder of a U.S. Park Ranger on the word of two informants, who had been charged with the crime, along with Mr. Bowers. These two men had both been convicted of armed bank robbery. However, in exchange for their testimony against Mr. Bowers, both had all charges against them dropped in connection with their part in the murder of the park ranger. In addition one of the informants served no time in connection with his bank robbery conviction for which he had been sentenced to 12 years in prison and was paid $10,000 after entering the witness protection program, according to the Prosecuting Attorney's post trial transcripts. There were no other eye-witnesses independent of these informants to link Mr. Bowers to the crime. At his trial, Mr. Bowers, who testified on his own behalf, and his wife offered alibi testimony which was not credited by the jury. Nor was testimony of two relatives of the informants who insisted that they were lying. Mr. Bowers has consistently proclaimed his innocence of the crime he claims he never committed even at the expense of having his appeals for parole denied--for which an admission of guilt and contrition as an expression of remorse is virtually required--he has insisted on maintaining his innocence.

Mr. Bowers conviction occurred during the FBI's infamous COINTELPRO operations which used covert and illegal actions to eradicate civil rights, political and peace organizations. Veronza Bowers, Jr. has moved past this controversy, however, as have his family, friends and supporters. This group is now focusing on convincing the U.S. Parole Commission to follow the rule of law and abide by their own regulations. They insist that the Commission acknowledge Mr. Bowers has made an extraordinary adjustment in prison, is not a threat to society and deserves to be released on mandatory parole.

This contention is supported by a report submitted by Mr. Hans H. Selvog, a licensed clinical social worker and Clinical Director of the Augustus Institute (National Center on Institutions and Alternatives of Baltimore, Maryland) providing a forensic assessment of Mr. Bowers evaluating his suitability as a candidate for parole. This exhaustive evaluation consisted of a mental status exam, psychological testing and risk assessment. It also reviewed Mr. Bowers' behavioral adjustment record while incarcerated.

Mr. Selvog writes:

"Psychological testing confirmed my clinical impressions of Mr. Bowers as someone who does not suffer from any psychiatric or personality disorders that would prohibit him from maintaining a normal, pro-social way of living and relating. Nor does he harbor a corrupt or criminally oriented style of thinking or perceiving. Actuarial risk assessment provided additional support that Mr. Bowers, should he be granted parole, would in all likelihood continue to engage in a lifestyle that is respectful of himself and others."

On October 6, 2005, the U.S. Parole Commission will make a final decision on Veronza Bowers, Jr. petition for mandatory parole. His supporters believe that the outcome of this meeting will not only determine the fate of one man, but the spirit of justice and democracy in this great nation of ours.

For more information go to www.veronza.org.

Rhonda Jones
Maynard Garfield

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