Letter from Avis Lee in October of 2014
If you had the PA General Assembly’s ear or the Governor’s ear for ten minutes, what would you say to them/him?
In 1973, when the legislature revamped the Sentencing Code a seed of confusion and inconsistency was planted regarding parole for lifers. Their (the legislature’s) reworking of the Sentencing Code includes a provision which appeared to extend parole eligibility for some lifers. Continue Reading
Letter from Avis Lee on January 18, 2015
What questions would you ask the other people serving life sentences who are participating in this project? Are there specific things you would most like to hear them respond to?
What do you do to keep hope alive concerning regaining your freedom? How do you handle aging, specifically how do you try to counteract its effects on your mind and body? Continue Reading
Letter from Dawud on November 1, 2014
My oddest habit is probably _______________________
My oddest habit is probably something which I say every single day without even thinking about it. I say that I am tired even if I just woke up from a full night’s sleep. I got this practice from my late father. He used to say “oh boy” all the time. But now my odd habit has taken on a life of its own because I also say this in response to the agony I feel each day of my existence. Continue Reading
Letter from Dawud on August 10, 2014
What does successful inside/outside collaboration look like to you? What the features or qualities that mark its success or effectiveness? Are there any particular examples of such collaborations that rise to the top in your mind?
Successful inside/outside organizing for me means that conscious people on the outside begin to see and understand the value of the conscious people on the inside. We’ve spent many years working and studying so we can contribute in a positive manner to the struggle for freedom. We know that most of these prisoners are going to someday return to our community, so we want them to return as assets, rather than destructive agents. Outside organizations have more influence than you realize, and with your help we can help transform the currently criminal mentality of the majority of our youth in these prisons, into an activist mentality. The same goes for prison administrations, they treat us differently when they know that we’re represented by committed outside groups and organizations. We can use that credibility to address many issues. Credibility goes a long way with both the prisoners and the administrations we must deal with. Then we can also pull families together to serve as a united force. Continue Reading
Letter from Dawud on June 28, 2014
You mention that you have done a lot of work over the years mentoring youth and providing guidance to them. Would you describe in a little more detail what shapes that work has taken – whether formal or informal in nature?
In regards to mentoring the youth, it has been both formal and informal. It is something that I naturally do. I’ve been able to work with other conscious prisoners to build youth development programs, beginning in Huntingdon. The program ran for a few years, and we were allowed to meet once a month. It was difficult to get the process off the ground because the administration initially told me that no one would be interested in such a program. They were flooded with request slips from the “non-interested prisoners” the very next day. They ended up giving us one day a month which in reality was not enough time, but it turned out to be a successful program which a lot of young men in the prison benefited from. Even here at this institution, SCI Coal Township, we’re trying to erect such a program. We successfully ran a pilot program which started at the end of April and went on for about five weeks. All the men spoke highly of the program and are awaiting a response from the administration in regards to the proposal we submitted to have the program extended. The program centered around discussions about family, community, relationships, respect, love, and much more. Continue Reading
Letter from Dawud on June 11, 2014
Please tell us something about yourself. Feel free to include whatever you feel comfortable or interested in sharing.
My name is David Lee and I am referred to as Dawud inside of the prisons I’ve done time in. I have been in prison now for 26 years for an act which I have always maintained that I did not commit. I am a victim of not turning into a state informant; had I done so, I would have been home long ago. I was offered a deal of 12½ to 25 years to testify against my codefendent, but I refused. Thus, I was given a life sentence. On June 13th, I’ll turn 51 and I’ve been in prison since the age of 24. I have a daughter whom I have not seen since she was 17, and she is now 31. I have a grandson whom I have never seen in person, and he’s 9 years old now. I am a prison activist who is involved with all types of projects to bring about awareness on various levels – whether it be cultural or political awareness, or some sort of youth development. I have two sisters left in my immediate family. My brother Darryl Lee and mother Edna Lee both passed away while I’ve been in prison. My father Henry Lee died in 1986 while I was still on the streets, but his passing had a devastating effect on me. Thus, Wanda Bush and Zenobia Johnson are all who are left in my immediate family, and Zenobia is very ill. I have a host of nieces and nephews whom I love very much and do the best I can to aid in their growth and development. Continue Reading