Saturday, April 2, 2016

Moving beyond Punishment /2 by Andrea and Professor Stojkovic

November 13, 2015
Andrae L. Bridges #248420
Fox Lake Correctional Institution P.O. Box 200
Fox Lake, WI 53933-0200
The Honorable Victor Manian
901 N. 9th St. #608 6774 N. Argyle Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53233-1425 Glendale, WI 53209-4346
Dear Mr. Manian:
Hello sir! I must open this letter with a prayer that you and everyone dear to you are well. I also pray that you receive this letter, and upon doing so, you will be so kind as to grant me a few minutes of your time. You may not remember me Mr. Manian but my name is Andrae L. Bridges and you presided over my criminal case at a time when acts of violence started to reach new heights. Especially at the hands of juvenile offenders, who, as a result were considered degenerate and incorrigible. Locking them up and throwing away the key seemed to be the best solution.

In 1992, at the age of 16, I was waived into adult court. Shortly thereafter I came before you, was convicted of First Degree Intentional Homicide-Party to a Crime, and subsequently sentenced to life without the possibility of parole until the year 2037. As a juvenile I couldn't comprehend what life in prison meant because I didn't have a real understanding or appreciation for my life, let alone the life of another. So, at this point you might be wondering why I decided to write you?
To put it simple Mr. Manian, I'm writing you because I feel I owe it to you, the victim's family, my family, and the community as a whole. It has to be duly noted that I, Andrae L. Bridges am no longer the angry, impressionable, misguided, self-destructive teenager who stood before you nearly 24 years ago. I'm not sure what this may mean to you, but it means the world to me to be able to tell you that I have grown in ways I never thought possible. No thanks to The Department of Corrections...
Sir, I say that because The Department of Corrections is not and has not been in the business of helping offenders become better men and women. This is seen moreso now than in the past, as the system has moved more towards punishment verses rehabilitation. Change is solely dependent upon the individual. Thankfully everything worked itself out for the good in my situation--no matter how bad. This is owed to my faith in God. "An untested faith is weak and ineffective. When we face trials with wisdom and endure them with Godly perseverance, we will find blessings never thought possible." With that being said, do you think it's fair that I continue to be punished for an act that took place when I was a minor? Please make no mistakes about it Mr. Manian, absolutely NOTHING written here is intended to minimize the seriousness of my offense and the affect it had on all parties involved, both directly or indirectly.
My crime was undoubtedly senseless and grave. I have acknowledged my role in the crime and have expressed deep remorse to the victim's family. Mylife before the crime was marred by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by the adults in my life. I don't know what difference it would've made to the courts, if any at all, but a true picture of my life was not available at the time of my sentencing. This was due in part to the fact that I believed the violence and abuse I experienced was the norm as opposed to the exception. I do not, however, offer my circumstances as an excuse for my actions.
At sentencing you acknowledged my having accepted responsibility for my actions. You also acknowledged my youth, however, you did not appear to consider it a mitigating factor. Instead, you emphasized the strong need for punitive action in the case because the community simply could not tolerate this type of behavior. I'm curious to know if your opinion would change in knowing that everyone who comes in contact with me, professional or otherwise, are unable to believe the life I once lived and the sentence I received based on the person I am today. Mr. Manian I'm truly honored by this fact, but I'm also torn because I'm forced to remain incarcerated when my beliefs, character, attitude, and behavior does not support the need for such.

On a number of occasions I've been asked, "What do you regret about coming to prison?" Answering that question is never easy because on one hand I regret absolutely nothing about coming to prison because everything I've gained and obtained through this experience is invaluable. I've not only learned to love myself, but life and everything it has to offer. On the other hand, I'm greatly saddened by how I ended up in prison... A life was taken and that's my ultimate regret, as there's nothing I can do to change that. I've changed me, but I can't change that one aspect and it breaks my heart. This makes it difficult for me to fight for a second chance at the life I never had. But I fight with a clear conscience because I believe I deserve a second chance and getting that second chance will not diminish the seriousness of my offense. In addition to that, prison no longer has anything to offer me. I've did everything asked of me and some...
I have been blessed with a family, including and not limited to a fiancee, with whom I am planning a life with. There are a number of individuals who support my being released ranging from staff members to community leaders. In fact, I will close with an article written by one such supporter, but not before thanking you for your time in regards to this matter. Your thoughts are welcomed. Please be well Mr. Manian.
Andre L. Bridges
cc: file
Terri Fleming, Fiancee

Moving Beyond Punishment

by Stan Stojkovic, Professor and Dean of Helen Bader school of Social Welfare at UW-Milwaukee.

Moving beyond punishment

Moving beyond punishment
I read with interest the recent editorial by the Journal Sentinel (A broken parole system leaves the inmates behind," July 18). The story of Anthony K. Brown is not unique. In fact, I have been corresponding with one such inmate for the past two years who is trying to get an early parole hearing. Andrae was convicted of a brutal murder when he was 15 [16], received a mandatory life sentence and has been in prison since 1994 [1992]. He is seeking an early parole release hearing in 2017. This does not mean he will be released in 2017, but he could become eligible for release. Without the hearing, he may have to wait until 2037 before a release is possible. If he is not released until 2037, he will cost the tax payers $700,000-$800,000. Is this cost worth it?

If we as a society are solely retributive in our reactions to serious crime, then Andrae deserves only punishment, and in his case, the maximum punishment under law is what he received and the cost may be irrelevant to us. But do we not want correctional systems to-do more than simply punish, and in the case of eligible parole cases (offenders who have done what was asked of them in prison), how has our practice of parole denial and protracted incarceration become nothing short of institutional cruelty? The only way out of this dilemma is to ask more of our correctional systems and to refocus efforts away from being simply retributive and vindictive and recognize atonement and an opportunity for redemption. When we go beyond legitimate punishment, as we have in our faulty parole system, we diminish ourselves and respect for the law diminishes.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, we have more than 1.8 million people in prisons in this country. We have learned that we cannot spend any more of our limited dollars on correctional efforts that not only dehumanize offenders, but, more important, serve no good purpose for the prisoner or society.
Stan Stojkovic is professor and dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee