May 16, 2011
by Harlan Richards (author's profile)



May 9, 2011

Two years ago I obtained the current data on time served for persons serving life sentences in Wisconsin (lifers) and wrote an article explaining the trend in Wisconsin which required lifers to serve an ever-increasing number of years before release on parole. That article was posted on but I have no idea if it is still there. I am including the three graphs that accompanied that article which I prepared based on the data.

In the 1980s, when I came to prison, lifers were serving on average 13-15 years before release on parole. Now they are serving 30 years or more. Lifers (and other prisoners with long sentences) are serving more time than ever before. There is no indication that any rational, objective criteria justify this policy change. It is an ideologically driven agenda much like the "tax cuts for the rich" issue Republicans and Tea Partyers support. Tax cuts for the rich do not lead to job growth, it just leads to wealthier rich people. The more money they are allowed to hoard, the less money there is to drive the economy. It is a lie that tax cuts for the rich create jobs just as it is a lie that keeping people in prison longer reduces crime.

The real sufferers of the decades in prison that I and other like me serve are our family members. My daughter was 5-yeard old when I came to prison. She grew up without her father and is now in her 30s with a family of her own. My father died a lingering death from emphysema in a rented hospital bed in his living room while I sat warehoused in a prison miles away. My mother died alone of a massive heart attack also while I was in prison. There are many people whose families have suffered more than mine. Thousands of families are held hostage by a paroling authority that refuses to release suitable prisoners.

Prisons do not allow prisoners to make much money, typically from 5¢ to 42¢ an hour. It is not enough to pay for the prisoners' needs so families end up subsidising the incarceration of their loved ones. Not only do they pay for the collect calls prisoners make to them, they must also provide money to pay for canteen items and personal property.

May 9, 2011/page two

I have heard others speak of the pendulum swinging back the other way, of our country no longer surging to the right. Some people believe that we've gone as far as we can go toward fascism and that will now start to drift toward more humane policies (fascism is defined as "a totalitarian governmental system emphasising nationalism and militarism"). I don't believe our societal values swing on a pendulum. Nor that it is only a matter of time before things swing back the other way. The breath of fresh air which we experienced in the openness, fairness and compassion of the 1960s and 70s was a unique situation fuelled by a draft system which sent unwilling men to Viet Nam unprepared to fight in an unjust war. The backlash from that experience drove many people to stand up to the oppressive practices of our government and resulted in new openness and freedom. You won't see that again.

Now, every step toward justice, fairness and compassion must be gained through hard work. In a country where most people are apathetic, motivating people to step and do the right things is difficult. It is too easy to turn on the TV and look the other way.

As It Happens is a Canadian news show I sometimes hear on the radio. The other night a retired detective was speaking about an old case he had once investigated. He had a suspect in mind, a person he was sure was the guilty party. What really impressed me was his statement that he never arrested the guy even though he thought he was guilty because he didn't have enough evidence. He went on to say that he kept following other leads to see if someone else could have committed the crime. Detectives in the U.S. could learn from him. How many times have you seen men released from prison after being exonerated decades later by DNA evidence? I often hear the same refrain. The police thought the guy did it so they ignored evidence to the contrary and orchestrated the evidence to convict their chosen suspect. I would not be in prison today had the detectives in my case not conducted a "reenactment" with their witnesses to solidify a false version of events to present to the jury.

Have you ever stopped to think about how many other people are in prison in the U.S. who are not guilty but do not have DNA evidence to exonerate them? The Innocence Project will only represent prisoners who have DNA evidence which can clear them. They will not accept cases where there is no DNA evidence or where a person committed the underlying act but was not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. Those are the kinds of cases which are unwindable.

May 9, 2011/page three

We need a new electoral system that does not depend on who can do the best job of mobilizing their core supporters or use outside groups to tell convincing lies about their opponent. We should not be looking for ways to make voting harder or reduce turnout. We should do the opposite.

Change Election Day to Sunday so people don't have to take off work to vote, allow online voting (if Pay Pal and banks can create secure financial transactions we ought to be able to create a secure online voting system), and make voting mandatory for all citizens 18 and over. We should also include a "none of the above" option on ballots. If NOTA gets the most votes, nobody wins and there must be a new election in 90 days. Only in this way will the wealthy no longer control our elected officials. We will be able to create an equitable, fair and just society.

No poems this week because I am posting the graphs on lifer data.

[Line graph titled "Persons Serving Life Sentences". On the left going up the side of the graph, it shows the years served on life sentence running from 0 to 35, increasing in 5 year increments. On the bottom of the graph, it shows the year of release running from 1981 to 2009 (April). There are two lines on the graph; one showing the number of releases, and the other showing the average time spent].

Date Compiled May 2009

Final Draft June 23, 2009
Data Compiled by Harlan Richards

[Bar graph titled "Inmate Status Comparison Per Year". Under the title, it says "Persons Serving Life Sentences Based on Year of Admission". On the left of the graph, it shows the number of lifers running from 0 to 40, increasing in increments of 5. Along the bottom of the graph, it shows the year running from 1970 to 1989. There are two bars on the graph; one showing the inmates still in prison, and the other showing the inmates released].

Final Draft June 23, 2009
Data Compiled by Harlan Richards


Replies (7) Replies feed

8yroldgirl Posted 11 years, 8 months ago. ✓ Mailed 11 years, 7 months ago   Favorite
I would have loved to respond to your original blog but I didn't think you would be able to read what I had to say! So let me introduce myself. I'm the 8 yr old girl that walked out of the bedroom in the middle of the night while you were in the middle of stabbing Dickie over and over. I was that 8 yr old girl that had to grow up with the memories haunting me of me yelling for my mom, you turning your head to the right and looking straight behind you as I walked toward you in fear,while you continued to stab a man that layed there helplessly.The smeared blood on the walls and sopping wet carpet that I was carried over and heard the blood squishing beneath his feet.I seen his nose hanging by a thread, I seen his blood squirt out of several different holes in his body like a squirt gun , I heard him plead for his life to his brother.I watched him stand and collapse in the hallway in front of my brothers bedroom door,I heard him tell his brother "I think I'm dying","I'm bleeding to death". I heard Dickie ask my 12 yr old brother for towels after he fell to the ground and laid there begging for someone to save him. We have suffered with the memories since 1983 and It disgusts me that someone can " accidently kill his own brother " Serve what 8 years and turn around , stab a man a minimum of 21 times in all parts of his body while he lay there with no fight left and turn around and complain that you have to rot in prison! You should serve your very last breath in your cell.You shouldn't have the luxury of the internet what so ever. The impact that you have made on the lives of my family are nothing compared to what you took from that man. You took his life, you took him from his children,his wife , his brothers and many other family members. I have waited a long time to have my day to speak my mind. I not only had to witness your actions first hand but I had to relive them in court during your trial. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I've had to relive those memories my entire life.I now suffer from severe anxiety and would like to thank you [REDACTED BY BETWEEN THE BARS].
Yours Truly,The 8 yr old girl you destroyed back in 1983

Harlan Richards Posted 11 years, 6 months ago.   Favorite
(scanned reply – view as blog post)

8yroldgirl Posted 11 years, 6 months ago. ✓ Mailed 11 years, 6 months ago   Favorite
My version of events which I witnessed will be in this letter.. I am so shocked and appalled and irritated after reading what you wrote about
my brother and I.You are calling us liars? We were two innocent children at the time who told the truth of what we
witnessed.We were never ever tricked, talked into,led to believe , made up or were fed info to convict you or any of
the such like you implied.
My version of events are very clear to me. I know what I woke up to , I know what I walked out to see and for you to
call me a liar makes me angry! That dead end hallway u speak of is exactly where I was sleeping when I heard banging.
To be honest , I actually thought when I opened the bedroom door and walked out behind you , that my mom was the one
laying on the floor and her boyfriend was beating her up....Until u turned and looked over your shoulder and I seen your face and
I heard my mom yelling , "Tina get back in my room " over and over....

I would gladly take a lie detector test to prove to you and to the world ,what I seen happen and what I heard people
yelling, anything I stated back then , I will state again. Id be willing to make a bet with you. You stop your appeals
and serve the rest of your life in prison,give me an apology for calling me a liar and my brother also ,if my results prove
what I stated to the police, during your trial or any place else of what I seen and heard that night proves to be the truth
of what I seen-heard-and that I was not co-hearsed into anything.I win the bet You serve
your life in prison,no appeals.Deal?

You claim self defense, which I believe it was at the start of your fight that night. When you decided to stab a man over
21 times in all parts of his body and he is unable to fight anymore your self defense claim then changes to murder.

You Killed your brother and to my knowledge you served sometime for his death. You were released and in a very short
amount of time you killed another man.2 lives gone from your actions.

Usually people who find God admit there wrong doings and ask for forgiveness. They don't twist there story to make others
feel sorry for them or place blame on the victims. Usually they are sorry for there actions.

Do you know I have a lot of memories of your cousin (Lyle) I can even remember him owing a silver vw rabbit, I remember
him having a blue conversion van and riding in it. Are those lies to? (odd for being so young) I remember even thinking you were
cute--I remember being around you on a few occasions and riding in that blue van with you and my mom.
Also ,after you fled from the apartment my brother, his friend who was spending the night and myself were removed from
the apartment, separated and had to give statements which were voice recorded before I was able to see my mom again.

8yroldgirl Posted 11 years, 6 months ago. ✓ Mailed 11 years, 6 months ago   Favorite
We had to pick your (you and lyle's)
pictures out of albums filled with peoples mug shots.I didn't get to see my mother for about 24 hours after seeing you
turn your head and look over your right shoulder and look me directly in my eyes,(which by the way for some reason I
thought maybe I was what triggered you to stop and run,since you to had a daughter)(my way of rationalizing this over the years)
but then I remember hearing Ron yelling
mother fucker you wanna play with knives??...blood was smeared down the walls and blood drenched the carpet and a man
dying because you went overboard.The man who died(dicky)his heart stopped several times
in our apartment and that sound of those shockers going off and his body thumping on the floor go through my mind often.
Did you know (Ron-dickies brother) was also detained and was unable to go with his dying brother on his last ride, to the
hospital. My mother and him were separated on the spot. To find out the following day that "dicky" didn't survive.
Evidently you must have blocked some things out of your memory or you just fail to take full responsibility for your actions.
Ironically the other kid you called a liar, (my brother) recently started saying he actually feels bad for you serving
all this time, Harlan has a degree, kid,man that's a long time,people can change etc...Yet, you call him a liar! let me
share something else, its now 1am, again Im losing sleep over this murder. I read this blog, bothered, I texted my
brothers phone.I asked him, do you still feel bad that he has to serve all this time for what he did? (because I dont
feel bad for you)the victims serve time daily,until they die. Anyways, he just responded to my text and asked" why ".
I said well you and I are liars according to Harlan. I said you and I seen nothing that night , according to Harlan..
.He wrote me again and said and I quote "I saw it all , I even put pillows under his dying head , I saw everything"...

8yroldgirl Posted 11 years, 6 months ago. ✓ Mailed 11 years, 6 months ago   Favorite
Like I mentioned before,I have suffered for many years reliving this nightmare in my mind. You talk about not opening
old wounds...Then you sit here and complain that you have to sit for your crime. Poor you , right? When have you ever
mentioned in your blogs a simple Im sorry for what those kids had to go through? You only call us liars. It disgusts me.
I have kids and cant imagine them ever being exposed to what I was in 84. Maybe someday ill find it in me to let this
all go. How ever I do feel awful for your daughter. She to is a victim.Maybe just once you could put her in my shoes
.Picture that little girl coming out of that room and seeing everything I've shared and then have the convicted murderer
call her a liar! I think you would agree that is typical of most inmates to proclaim they are innocent and it's
always the victims who pay the real price. I understand you want your freedom, who wouldn't ? Do not point fingers
at those that were just there! We and I speak for every other single person in that apartment that night,Did NOT pull
a knife out and preform your actions for you.
You mentioned also The guy you stabbed had an extensive record yet you never mention what your prior record was...We
all also know that size does not mean a thing in a fight. You mention your height and weight...Well my brother has had
many many fights in his life he is not a big guy, about your size in his prime...Never lost one,ever! It didn't matter
how big or when it was a fight against several at once.He never pulled a knife...Food for thought. Let me also let you
in on another thing. My brother also served time in prison for fighting, battery was his reason. He never murdered anyone
and he did his time without complaint.
If you continue to write blogs,try being truthful,dont call people liars to make yourself look or feel better. If you claim to
have found a higher power. Then live it. Do not disregard the feelings of victims,any of them. You are not the only
one with feelings, whose life was changed . There are many of us out here. Your family members, mine, and the man who
lost his life's family...
One more thing before I end this. You were in the middle of a raging fight, fighting for your life as you say. Do you
really think you noticed what my brother or myself seen happening? Honestly , how would you have noticed every single
thing going on around you in a moment like that? I do not for a minute believe you remember all of the events we all
witnessed in those moments.I have no reason to lie. What would I gain? I have no motive to lie,None. The whole entire
thing was a nightmare for everyone.

8yroldgirl Posted 11 years, 6 months ago. ✓ Mailed 11 years, 6 months ago   Favorite
I did read that other blog u wrote..Btw, I have spoken with my mother about the events that happened prior to the fight. I know there was a call from Ron, I know there was someone saying they were going to dump a pitcher of beer over her head which was was prompted them to come there.Regardless, nobody seen you try to shake hands. The way the fight started was never an issue. The issues were how it escalated and turned to murder.You , ron, dick, yall had criminal records! That isnt even the issue. I have a very close relationship with my mom and shes been very honest with me and there are things I bring up that I remember that she has since blocked out and cant recall at all. She does not remember the blood on the walls or carpet.Crazy , she was the one that tried to get our security deposit back, by sopping the blood out of the carpet with towels and wringing them out in the tub, shampooing the floor over and over, cleaning the walls and painting them.I think that every person there that night,seen and remembers different parts of the event that took place, dont dismiss what everyone else seen and heard . You were preoccupied in the fight...I think maybe its good for you to also hear what others remember. Your version may have some truths and maybe all thruth from what you recall but make no mistake of what others recall as well, as the truth. I appreciate your side. I appreciate you responding to my message. I just dont appreciate that u call me a liar. I can even tell you that in my moms room , where I ran after coming out and seeing what all was happening, I jumped under her covers (cant see me) and phil collins was on the clock radio singing "hello" ....I may have been young but what I remember , is what I seen and heard. There is a fine line between self defense and murder. Im still up on that bet if your willing to take it !

Harlan Richards Posted 11 years, 4 months ago.   Favorite
(scanned reply – view as blog post)

We will print and mail your reply by . Guidelines

Other posts by this author


Get notifications when new letters or replies are posted!

Posts by Harlan Richards: RSS email me
Comments on “Untitled”: RSS email me
Featured posts: RSS email me
All Between the Bars posts: RSS