Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bearing Witness

I have been blessed to receive several letters of support on Troy's behalf that have been sent to the Parole Board and governor's office. They have warmed my heart and inspired me profoundly. I thought our supporters might like to share in the inspiration, so I am including some passages below.

If you have yet to write your letter, please don't use any of the following verbatim. But please do take the time to write from your heart.

From an "outside" volunteer who attends the Kinross Ethics Program that Troy developed:
"The most profound and emotionally touching experience is the open sharing and discussion of past failures that Troy promotes in the class. He encourages the analysis of decisions through the lens of integrity, character and fairness that causes the participants to evaluate past actions and come to grips with the consequences of those actions. In that process I sense genuine remorse and acute awareness of the depth and breadth of the hurt caused not only to the victim and the victim’s family, but also their own loved ones and society in general.

"Troy’s leadership in helping men change lives is not restricted to the classroom. Troy is well known and respected by fellow inmates and officers alike in the compound as a guy who “walks the talk”. In all aspects of his life he inspires others prisoners to change thought processes and behaviors by applying the principles of ethics. He challenges himself and others to not let past failures limit their ability to be a beneficial presence in all relationships and interactions, whether it is with an officer, a fellow inmate or a family member.

"I would estimate that in the four years the KCF ethics program has been in place nearly 100 men have positively impacted. The success of the program is due to Troy’s passion to help others, leadership ability and keen interpersonal skills. He has developed a succession plan with a core group of likeminded men trained to continue on with the program."

From a former fellow inmate:
"I arrived at the Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan's upper peninsula in the spring of 2007. ...

"I heard about the Ethics program that was being offered by one of the inmates on the compound and I soon learned that that inmate was Troy Chapman. Initially I was skeptical, what could a convicted felon know about ethics? I kept hearing more and more about this “Troy” guy and his band of ethical thinkers and, intrigued, I signed up. That action opened up doors that up until that point I did not even know existed.

"In Troys class, actually discussion group is a more apt description, I started on a whole new way of thinking about myself and the world around me. Under Troys tutelage I came to realize that I was part of something much bigger than myself. Up until then I had been acting in a very self serving manor, even in my pursuit of self improvement. He introduced me to the concept of being what he called a “Beneficial Presence”. In a nut shell this means to consider every action and every situation and calculate the most loving response to that situation and then act upon it. It is not always the easiest thing to do but it is always the right thing to do.

"Thank God for Troy and his altruistic ways. He was able to lead me down his chosen path, selflessness and concern for others before himself. Troy is an exceptional human being and has come a long way from the person that committed the ultimate selfish act, homicide, some 26 years ago. I was fortunate never to have known that individual and therefore my opinion and judgment are not clouded by his past. I only know the Troy of today and I am grateful for the friendship that was fostered inside the fence and continues today. ...

"His continuing community support, preparedness for transition, and deportment while incarcerated should all, in my humble opinion, make him an exceptional candidate for parole."

From a Friend of Troy in Michigan who has personally corresponded with Troy:
"Punishment is a concept with diminishing returns, and prisons spit out brittle, angry men. But Troy Chapman stands as proof that change is possible, even in the harsh environment of the cellblock. For a willing few, incarceration is a wake-up call – a chance to start life over from scratch. When I asked Troy how he became what he is now, he wrote back that he came to a place where he could no longer live as he was, and he had to find, or create, some kind of meaning in his life. “Grace” took it from there. I saw then, a man willing to take the risk of seeing himself for what he truly is – imperfect - and then set out to learn from his mistakes and evolve into who he was meant to be. Part of this journey involved sharing the special gifts he discovered. He has since, struggled heroically in his unique community, creating a small island of calm in the center of the insanity that is prison life.

"Daily, Troy leaves his mark on the world, but it is a small world, limited by razor wire and locked doors. And daily his life says by example: 'This is what I’ve accomplished. You can do it too. I’ll help.'"

From Friends of Troy in Pennsylvania who have also corresponded with Troy:
"During the past 24 years Troy Chapman has had a lot of time to think, to pray, to study, to learn, and to create. He has written music, created art, taught classes, and become a writer. Some of his articles were published, which is how we became acquainted with him. His philosophical questions about life, about our relationships with one another, and about God have resulted in more writings that have enriched the lives of those of us who have become aware of his story. His goal in life now is to be a good citizen in the world today, making positive contributions as opportunities which use his strengths present themselves. To that end he is currently teaching Ethics to other Kinross prisoners. If released from prison we have every reason to believe that he would continue his quest to make a positive difference in a world that surely can benefit from his example of personal transformation.

"Today Troy Chapman has made friends with men and women outside the prison who will continue to be his friends whether or not he is released. He now has positive role models, as well as people willing to be mentors and people willing to support him through the transition from prisoner to good citizen and working member in society.

"Troy Chapman has become an introspective, mature, and wise man, committed to nonviolence, who now has the education and skills to teach and to be a role model for others. We hope you will look more deeply at his record in prison and his potential for being a good citizen out of prison. We feel that he has, increasingly over the past 24 years, demonstrated that he has been rehabilitated and is prepared to assume a positive and productive role in society should he be given the opportunity to enter it again. Should his case again come across your desk for reconsideration, we ask you to look with favor upon him."

From Friends and correspondents in The Netherlands:
"In his remarkable process he imagined himself in the place of that other young man he killed, cut off from life. He felt guilt and deep remorse. Then he tried to reflect and to feel what it meant for the parents and relatives. To lose in such way your son, brother, your friend.

"That is not an easy and common thing to do for a criminal. But Troy Chapman realized that if he did not feel in the most deep way possible what his deed signified for the victim and other people, then there would be no way to live his life in the years to come.” He understood the laws of life, taking responsibility and having the courage to feel what he had done, asking himself: 'What does my decision, my acts in life mean to that other human being?'

"From that moment on we are deeply involved in Mr. Chapman’s beautiful writings about his inner experiences. He has developed himself as a great teacher, doing lovely work for the people within the prison and for many people outside.

"As teachers to adult people, searching for the meaning of life, establishing qualities like peace, friendship and spiritual awareness in the life of our students, we are using quotations of Troy regularly. They are of great wisdom and at the same time so adaptable. That’s how Troy helps us all to transform ourselves as he did."

From Friends in France:
"We visited Troy Chapman in 2003 and in 2006 and can only express, that we met a very well educated person, sensitive, intelligent and very alive. His interest in others makes us think that he probably would be very useful in helping others such as socially disturbed youngsters. All his experiences in life, especially the difficult ones, may be particularly helpful on one hand to understand these youngsters and on the other to show them how one can transform oneself.

"It must not be an easy task to evaluate the transformation of a person. How does one evaluate the transformation of a person like Troy Chapman who worked hard on himself in jail for 24 years after having entered as a very young man of only 21?
Do you think it is still possible after 40 years in jail to integrate into the wider society? Perhaps it is better not to wait for too long, especially for the ones who have worked in a remarkable way on themselves, because everybody should have an interest that the transformed prisoners find their way back into society."

From a Friend and correspondent in New York:
"Troy has accepted full responsibility for his crime, made no excuses and rejected the errors of his youth. He has become a mature individual through his strong effort toward atonement. There is strong evidence that he has succeeded in becoming a valuable, caring, wise and productive person.

"In view of all this I feel that he has served enough time to deserve being released as soon as possible and hope the board will see fit to show him clemency. He would not be a danger to society but a great gift to have among us.

"I would be delighted to have Troy live in my neighborhood or in my apartment as a kind of half-way house. He is an honest and inspiring person who I would feel privileged to socialize with. I would be very happy to testify futher in his behalf if asked."

From a Friend who is a corrections employee in Minnesota:
"I have been deeply touched by Troy’s inspirational communications from prison, his blogs and his artwork which show incredible insight and depth. This is especially astonishing in light of the conditions in which he lives his life. I have worked in the corrections field since 1985 and have been inspired by many of my clients. However I have never seen this kind of commitment to the development of the human spirit. I have been an avid reader of books on spirituality from many traditions for year and you rarely see this kind of insight in people outside of prison. Given the extraordinary commitment Troy has given to creating a positive presence to people both inside and outside prison I hope someone soon sees fit to commute his sentence."

I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to write and those who have promised to do so. You are lights in the world.

—Maryann Gorman

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