Our Voices > We Are DC

Families Suffer Too When Members are Incarcerated

May 27, 2022

The perspective of

Carmelita (Terry) Metts

Incarcerated at

FCI Aliceville
in Alabama

Year incarcerated

1995

What do you want the broader DC community to know about you? About the broader community of DC residents behind bars?

I have been incarcerated for 27 years. I am in for a murder charge, but I did not commit the crime. I'm here because I refused to say who did and was punished for it. But beyond my case, people need to understand the situation of those of us who are still incarcerated under the "old law." [That means they were convicted before 2000, when indeterminate sentences (like 30 years to life) were abolished. Having an indeterminate sentence means release is only possible through parole, which must be granted by a federal commission, since the District doesn't have local control. And the U.S. Parole Commission rarely grants release.] The D.C. officials passing all these new reform laws have left us unnoticed. Most of us are doing long-term sentences for charges that today would be punished with half the time. Most agencies in DC have no clue how to help us old-law inmates.

Why is it important for DC residents still incarcerated β€” and you in particular β€” to have a say in who makes decisions for the District?

Incarcerated people should have a say in government because many of the decisions affect us or our families one way or another. For example, our family! Government doesn't understand the burden placed on them, trying to take care our children. Our families are left trying to foot those bills on a minimum wage salary. Sometimes, they can't get financial help because the parent is incarcerated and some agencies say only a legal guardian has the right to do certain things for the children (like getting food stamps, documents for school, etc.). Yes, we made a mistake, but we do not want our children and families to suffer because of what we did.

As an incarcerated resident, what one to three issues do you most want DC candidates/officials to address?

1) Pass a law that helps us old-law inmates who don't qualify for the Second Look Act because we were older than 25 when we went in. [The D.C. Council is indeed considering such a provision as part of a revision of the criminal code.] 2) Set up a body that really knows what the old-law structure (doesn't have to guess) and can offer support and information to us. 3) Bring us home to a local prison so we don't have to be all over the country, controlled by the federal government.