Dear Ms. Griner,
My name is Jason Goudlock, and I’m the prisoner who recently told the Ohio Parole Board I wanted to be released from my indefinite sentence of six to 25 years partly so I could witness LeBron James’ pursuit of an NBA title with the Cavs.
I’m writing in response to comments you made to TMZ, saying I should be denied parole. Subsequently, I was actually denied parole and received a controversial and unjust sentence continuation of 60 months. That you feel I shouldn’t have been released at my most recent Parole Board hearing is an opinion you are most certainly entitled to hold. I believe, however, you might be unaware of the existence of the egregious “old-law” sentencing disparity in Ohio’s criminal justice system. This disparity adversely affects a small minority class of Ohio prisoners, including me. Hoping to change your opinion about whether I should have been denied parole, I will explain: On July 1,1996, Ohio stopped sentencing offenders to indeterminate sentences (e.g., five to 25 years or six to 25 years) for crimes like mine. (I was convicted of aggravated robbery and felonious assault.) The state implemented a modernized and less punitive set of guidelines, commonly known as “flat-time” sentences (e.g., three year, four years, five years, up to ten years) that exempt offenders convicted of crimes like mine from having to go before a decision-making parole board to be considered for release. This means that under my pre-July 1, 1996, old-law sentence, I could be made to serve up to 25 years for a crime I would be made to serve only up to10 years for if I were sentenced under the post-June 30, 1996, sentencing guidelines. (My 25-year indeterminate sentence is consecutive with my nine-year sentence, which I received as a firearm sentencing enhancement.)
Like the racist sentencing disparity for crack-cocaine and powder cocaine offenders, the old-law/new-law disparity in Ohio is inhumane and goes against fundamental ideals of justice said to be part of America’s national identity. Imagine playing in the WNBA finals with referees who arbitrarily eject you after you commit two fouls while other players can commit twenty! You’d be justifiably outraged. As a first-time offender sentenced under the discontinued old-law guidelines, I’ve served nearly 21 years for crimes Ohio’s new-law offenders would get just three to 10 years for. In addition, new-law prisoners can pick fights with old-law prisoners without affecting their release date, but if we fight back, our parole dates are extended. I’m outraged. I’ve served my time, and so have hundreds of other old-law prisoners.
By denying to release me at my recent parole hearing, Ohio’s unjust Parole Board (see “Unveiling the Shadowy Past of Ohio Parole Board Member Marc Houk:A Story of Injustice” at FreeJasonGoudlock.org) is preventing a rehabilitated person from helping at-risk youth. Having grown up as an at-risk youth myself, my story is a convincing warning to share with youth of today. Although I’m now in prison for robbing people, as a youth I had no aspirations to become an armed robber. Instead, I grew up loving the same game that has been so important to you. I wanted to play basketball in college and, if possible, in the NBA. If you ever run into ESPN analyst Chris Broussard, you could ask him about me.
After receiving a controversial 60-month sentence continuation at my recent parole hearing, I released my novel, Brother of the Struggle. This account of a young African-American’s “efforts to break the chain-like bonds of mass incarceration” is based in part on my years as a prisoner. If you read the copy I am sending you under separate cover, I think you’ll find evidence of my rehabilitation, and you might change your mind about wanting me to spend any more time in this barbaric criminal justice system. Whether Brother of the Struggle accomplishes that or not, I hope it leads you in some kind of way to become an instrument of change. I hope you can make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth so they can avoid becoming the incarcerated of tomorrow.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
P.S. Harvey Levin is a lawyer and host of the People’s Court. The next time he interviews you on TMZ, how about asking him his opinion of the state of Ohio’s trying to “Mandelatize” me (as in serving close to the 27 years Nelson Mandela served), by making me serve an outdated, indeterminate sentence the state no longer uses (i.e., six to 25 years)? I think he should provide the audience with real legal insight and then conduct an online TMZ poll under the banner “Parole or Mandelatize the LeBron Fan.” Whenever I get out, for charitable purposes, I would love to challenge you to a dunk contest. I’m 39, but I can still throw ’em down like Steve Francis/Baron Davis used to do.
Download a PDF copy of Letter to Brittney Griner.