Written by Larry Allred, an incarcerated North Carolinian in Caswell Correctional.

*In 1997, Larry Allred was twenty years old when he was given a 47 year sentence after being convicted for robbery. He refused a six-year plea deal, and has maintained his innocence from day one. In April, he contracted COVID-19, and it took over a month for him to recover. 

The following blog post was created by compiling excerpts from Mr. Allred’s letters from prison. These are his words.

How am I supposed to get a fair shot? As a Black man, the odds are stacked against me. I can’t breathe, the system has its knee on my neck. I’m screaming for some help! I’m begging for some equal justice.  I didn’t come to prison sentenced to death. Governor Cooper, our lives have meaning and we hurt and feel just like you. We are crying out for help. 

A person with means is able to immediately hire a lawyer who can help secure bail or negotiate with a prosecutor for a faster, more favorable resolution, while a person without means cannot. Often, those accused and without proper resources cannot wait for a court-appointed lawyer because spending time in jail can cost them their families, homes, and jobs. They could be forced to plead guilty even though they may have not committed a crime. 

Our uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, wives and husbands, are all suffering under these strict laws. A lot of people who are incarcerated are innocent and not guilty of crimes they’re locked up for. They have no resources or power to continue fighting their convictions to regain their freedom. Winning convictions has become more important than finding real justice in our society. Who knows how many of these incarcerated prisoners may be freed by the release of some secret that remains buried in a prosecutors file, a judge ordering evidence to be tested by DNA laboratory, forensic ballistic tests done properly, access to private investigators, access to ethical lawyers and appeal judges who uphold the integrity of the laws. 

State Governor, Mr. Roy Cooper, and our legislative leaders need to step in and intervene addressing concerns relating to our judicial system. Mandating uniform standards and accreditation in crime labs and other criminal justice departments that are stalled in political turf battles. Law enforcement officials and prosecutorial misconduct are a major problem for thousands of incarcerated doing decades behind bars. 

If we’re serious about equal justice for all and dealing with our criminal justice system, we need our politicians and state legislative leaders to address criminal and prison reform policies. Let them right the wrongs of history. Allow them to correct the damage that has been done. We need change. We want change.  Mr. Governor, how about you please start using your executive clemency powers to free good men and women who deserve a second chance? Everybody deserves a second chance.