By Boston Woodard
During my youth, I was no doubt the poster child for irredeemable miscreants. I was a young thug running wild, unchecked, with no respect for others. I was a criminal.
In 1973, I served one year in Concord, Mass., for robbery. I paroled and fled to California. My behavior was assaultive, and I continued to steal. I eventually was arrested and sentenced to a long prison term. I served more than 35 years behind bars.
When I returned to prison, I decided to change my ways. I needed to find out what made me tick as a criminal. I believe it was many things including my lack of education and social skills and lots of pent-up anger.
There was a complete lack of parental oversight in my life. My father abandoned my mother with five kids when I was 10. We barely survived on welfare and other charitable handouts.
I now know that growing up in poverty is nothing to be ashamed of, nor did it have anything to do with the bad decisions I made growing up. People have been telling me I made all the “wrong choices” in my life. I had no options to choose from; choices were not available to me. I accepted the hand that was dealt to me. I understand why I was issued such a stiff prison sentence. I stand accountable for my actions. I own them, trust me.
During my incarceration, I got involved heavily with art I loved, music and writing. I began setting up and organizing music events, became a certified Laubach Literacy tutor and was a prisoners’ rights activist, writing for 25 years about what goes on inside the California prison industrial complex, in both prison and free world publications.
I became editor and/or staff feature writer for several prisoner-written and published newspapers and newsletters. In 2005, I began contributing articles to the Community Alliance newspaper when Mike Rhodes, author of Dispatches from the War Zone, was editor. He gave me a forum from behind prison walls.
Rhodes trusted me to write firsthand accounts about prison conditions, events and episodes of law changes. For going on 13 years, that trust of me was extended by Rhodes, past Community Alliance editor Ernesto Saavedra and current editor Hannah Brandt. My book, Inside the Broken California Prison System (published in 2011 and available on Amazon.com) is a compilation of my articles published in the Community Alliance.
While in the California prison system, I became facilitator for two anger control groups, the Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) and the Conflict Resolution Option Program (CROP), counseling prisoners during three-day workshops on anger management.
I was allowed to start a Creative Writing Guild (CWG) creating atmosphere for incarcerated writers. The group hosts numerous authors, journalists, educators and guest speakers who hold workshops for guild members.
On March 17, 2017, three days before my scheduled release on parole after 35 years, I was informed that “federal marshals” would be transferring me to Massachusetts to answer to a 44-year-old parole violation.
On March 20, I was shipped like a parcel via federal, contracted, private transportation services and detention centers. The process took more than six weeks. I was shackled and handcuffed with what is dubbed the “black box,” a device forcing your arms and wrists into an extremely painful position. Five months later, I still have scars on my wrists from the torturous device.
To better understand the federal (money sucking) transportation process, which uses huge buses, vans, cars and airliners dubbed “Con-Air,” my trip from California to the East Coast took me on an unimaginable journey.
Federal marshals picked me up from state prison and brought me to the Solano County Jail. From there, I was transported (with dozens of other detainees) to the Sacramento County Jail; the Fresno County Jail; the Kern County Jail; the Nevada Southern Detention Center; an Oklahoma county jail; Harrisburg, Pa.; the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center; the Federal Detention Facility in Brooklyn; N.Y.; the Fort Dix Federal Penitentiary in New Jersey; the Wyatt Federal Detention in Rhode Island; and finally the Cedar Junction State Prison in Massachusetts. Seriously!
The so-called parole violation turned into a charge of “larceny of a motor vehicle” (car theft) in Gloucester, Mass., and a possession of a weapon (gun) in Chelsea, Mass., two 43-year-old crimes of which I have no knowledge. In both cases, my name appears on some sort of court docket. There is no photo of me, no fingerprint cards, no police reports, no witnesses, no law enforcement documents whatsoever connecting me to either case. In the Chelsea case, an intense FBI check was conducted concluding there was nothing tying me to the two ancient crimes.
A key document absent in proving I committed the two crimes is the mandatory contract/agreement that must be signed by every parolee or person on probation in Massachusetts. I never signed such a document agreeing to probation conditions, and they cannot produce one. Anyone could have used my name in my absence while I was on the run 44 years ago.
Those working for my release include the Prison Legal Assistance Project at the Harvard Law School, the Community for Public Service Council, Andrew Brickfield, Pamela Harris-Daley, Hal Rush-Lloyd and appeals attorney Richard S. Jacobs.
On a personal level, my friend of 44 years, Marvin Mutch, who spent 41 years on an intermittent seven year-life sentence for a wrongful conviction suffered in 1975, has been relentless in assisting in my case.
Mutch was freed in 2016. He is one of the most thorough “jailhouse lawyers” I have ever witnessed. During the 1980s, Mutch co-founded the Men’s Advisory Council, a prison advocacy group first established in San Quentin to represent the collective needs of California prisoners across the state.
My appeals attorney will be filing my appeals brief in mid- September with the Massachusetts State Appeals Court.
The incredible support I’ve received from my friends is what fuels me right now. The Community Alliance is part of that support system for which I am grateful beyond words.
To learn more about my legal status, contact Marvin Mutch at marvinmutch@gmail. com.
Boston Woodard is a prisoner/ journalist who has contributed to the Community Alliance newspaper since 2005. He is the author of Inside the Broken California Prison System (Amazon). Woodard facilitates a Creative Writing Guild that he established for incarcerated writers.