This post concerns a story in The New York Times that may have been overlooked by many people, the story having been published on a holiday.
“One Robber’s 3 Life Sentences: ’90s Legacy Fills Prisons Today”
By Timothy Williams
The New York Times
July 4, 2016
It is another story about the absolute lunacy — the unfairness — of our “criminal justice” system. The sentence is ridiculous, cruel, uncalled for.
Justice is supposed to be applied rationally. It is supposed to be a system based on abstract principles which have been codified whereby people who let their passions and criminal instincts get the best of them are subject to “correction” by an ordered system in which the law is applied (supposedly) rationally, so that the person “out of control” (the criminal) is brought to heel by officials (judges, prosecutors, correction officers, and so on) who apply the law strictly, yet fairly and impartially.
The system is anything but fair or rational. It makes absolutely no sense.
There is no other way to put it.
Someday, someone is going to write a major work of literature – a new Les Misérables, a new House of the Dead, a new J’accuse – that will make the public feel the horror and injustice of all this.
But, I am sure that for the present this will not bother most people, including those who bother to read this blog, any more than did another recent post of mine:
Roger W. Smith, re: “British Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Al Qaeda Plot to Attack London Airport”
No one seems to care.
— Roger W. Smith
See the eloquent response to this blog by Vandy Singleton, below.
See also “Lenny Singleton’s Life Sentences”
letter to editor from Vandy Singleton
The New York Times
July 19, 2016
email to Roger Smith from Vandy Singleton (Leonard Singleton’s wife)
July 20, 2016
Thank you, Roger, for this and your more lengthy reply online. I just thought it important to tell you that indeed someone does care and very much so. You are not alone in caring about humanity. Believe me I understand how frustrating it can be and sometimes it seems that I am on an island completely alone fighting for true equality and justice. But on this journey, I have found some — just a few — willing to fight the “good” fight with me. Again, thank you for posting a link to the article and for caring about Lenny’s situation.
I care — Vandy Singleton here — Lenny Singleton’s wife — Lenny Singleton (shown in the profile pic) is the example given in this article. Many people have asked me why did I marry Lenny while he is incarcerated with 2 Life Sentences plus 100 years? But before I answer that, I just want to say the following. Our world, everyday on the news, we get story after story of hate, of racism, of another person of color being unjustly shot or killed. We do not have enough stories of Love and today I am going to give you that. I truly believe that our story is the Love Story of the century.
You see I knew Lenny back in high school. We attended a magnet school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Magnet schools were funded by the government to help in the desegregation of America. And Tulsa was in desperate need of desegregation. Tulsa is site of one of the worst race riots in the country — The Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. Because of that event, Lenny and I sat right next to each other in math class, and we became fast friends. One day Lenny stood up and announced to the entire class, “Vandy Hill, I just love you.” Lenny graduated a year ahead of me with a full ride athletic scholarship and we lost contact with one another, but that has always stayed with me.
For over 28 years I searched for Lenny, finally finding him on Facebook in September 2012. His brother Lionel had retired from the military and had, upon visiting Lenny in 2012, decided to put a FB page up for him and do whatever he could to help his brother. I was horrified when I discovered what had happened to my friend. I began writing everyone I could think of to bring attention to his situation. I have written well over a thousand letters and emails to everyone from the President of the US, the Governor of Virginia (previous and current), every person in the House and Senate, lawyers, educators, talks show hosts, tv stations, newspapers, actors and actresses, musicians, advocacy organizations — I still write everyone I can think of. I also began writing Lenny.
Lenny shared all that he has been doing while incarcerated these past 21 years. He works every business day in a position of authority, he lives in the Honor’s Dorm, and he takes every available class for self-improvement offered. During the entire 21 years he has been in prison, he has not received a single infraction for anything – very rare for lifers who have no motivation to be the best they can be. For over 10 years he was a leader in his church finally stepping down to focus on his situation and that is when his brother popped up and when I finally found him.
For me, as we began to catch either up over 28 years I realized what bad shape I was in — in every way. I was at least 60 lbs. overweight and terribly unhappy. With Lenny’s constant encouragement and suggestions, I lost 50 lbs. in 4 months, so much weight that I was finally able to feel the lump in my left armpit. With the discovery of a tumor in my left breast over my heart and a tumor at the base of my skull threatening to paralyze me from the neck down, my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis turned from Stage II to Stage IV overnight. If I had not reunited with Lenny when I did, right now I would either be paralyzed from the neck down or dead — that was the path I was headed down. My reunion with Lenny created a miracle for me and now I am trying to do whatever I can to bring him the miracle he needs.
To that end, I married Lenny in 2015 in Nottoway Correctional Center — I married Lenny because he saved my life, because I believe in his reformed nature 110% but mainly because I love him so very dearly. Together we have written and published a book together called “Love Conquers All: How Love Delivered Her from Cancer and Him from Prison,” now available on Amazon. We are hoping to change how people view addiction, cancer and healthcare system, the family unit, and the judicial system. This book not only shares Lenny’s journey to incarceration but also chronicles the miracle that took place in my life. It stands as a testament to the power of our thoughts to create our reality, that miracles do and can happen, and that Love does indeed conquer all. It is raw, honest, and powerfully inspirational. There is literally something for everyone. This is a look inside of the mind of a man that is considered to be “violent” even though no one filed as a “victim” and no one was physically injured. There is no one who would read this that would think that Lenny deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. If you need more love in your life, if you need inspiration, if you need more hope, then I encourage you to get a copy. It is as real as it gets and won’t be like any book you have ever read. Lenny spent over a year hand writing his letters to me — because he wants to help those that might be headed down the same path he was. That is how this “violent” criminal spent his weekends for over a year — doing something in the hopes of helping others. I know the haters will think this is about the money, so to set you straight, we have made a total of $27 to date on our book. It is absolutely not about the money. It is about helping people have a better life.
Taxpayers will pay well over a million dollars to keep Lenny for the rest of his life. In Virginia, it costs over $25,000 per inmate per year. Lenny has already costs taxpayers over $500,000 and if he remains in prison for the rest of his life that total will surpass a million dollars — for robbing less than $550 in crimes where no one was physically injured. This makes no sense on any level. That money would be better spent on preventative education, rehabilitation services, or rebuilding infrastructures — on anything other than keeping one man who is deserving of a second chance, who was a first time felon with a college degree and who served in our Navy, who has already been in prison for 21 years, who didn’t physically injured anyone in prison for the rest of his life.
Although Lenny’s case is possibly one of the worst illustrating sentencing disparity and excessive sentencing, it is not, by far, the only one. It is time that we care for our own — these people are our people. I realize that their are many who belong behind bars but there are so many, like Lenny, that deserve a second chance. Once Lenny is released we plan to tour the country fighting for criminal justice reform. We are currently working on a program to help inmates and those headed down that path. Right now there is nothing in place to help inmates successfully reenter society, developing self-mastery skills and other social skills. We spend our tax dollars just locking them up and in Lenny’s case, throwing away the key. It is time for this to change.
I want to believe in humanity’s love and we need the help of the American people. Please visit our website at http://www.justice4lenny.org and sign Lenny Singleton’s petition. We need as many signatures as we can get. I don’t know how much time I have left on this Earth. To the amazement of my oncologist, I currently have “no active disease” in my body. I can tell you this — I will continue to fight for Lenny’s release until he is released or I am dead.
Ms. Singleton – thank you for reading the post and for your powerful, eloquent, impressively written reply. I am glad that The New York Times saw fit to publish a long article about your husband’s case. But, it’s too bad that they published it on a major holiday, July 4, when a lot of the usual Times readers might have missed it.
I can’t comprehend how persons in positions of authority cannot see the injustice of his sentence and of his continued incarceration. But, there are many mean spirited people out there. Makes you wonder whatever happened to the notion of us being a Christian nation (historically): “Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Thanks again for replying. And, please accept my heartfelt best wishes to you and your husband.
— Roger W. Smith
Thank you Roger for your kind reply. I am hoping true justice will prevail and I believe in miracles now. I know that God would not have sparred my life if it wasn’t to do something important. Lenny and I will hopefully be able to have an impact on the reformation of the criminal justice system – at least that is our goal once he is released. God Bless!