Support for My Clemency Application, Update of Oregon HIV Criminalization Laws
Hello there readers: If you have been following my blog regularly, then you know that I have been in prison for more than two decades for non-disclosure of my HIV status, which got me a long sentence. I have been in awe of how much things have changed over the years. States like California have made non-disclosure, unprotected sexual intercourse, and even HIV transmission no longer a felony that can land someone in prison for decades. The charge is now a misdemeanor and punishable by county jail time.
There is no way I would ever advocate to anyone to engage in reckless behaviors, even if HIV is now a chronic illness. Just because antiretroviral therapy (ART), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are available now, this doesn't mean that anyone has the right to not protect themselves or the person they are engaging in sexual acts with. Had I gotten this through my thick head when I was younger, it would have changed my reckless behavior and my career in prison. Just because I am stuck behind these prison walls doesn't mean that I can't still be of some value to society and help get the message out there.
Just about 34 months ago (Aug. 31, 2015), I mailed a clemency application to Oregon Governor Kate Brown asking her to take a long look at my case and consider letting me out of here. I had help from a friend that posted a petition on change.org asking for signatures supporting my release from prison. As of the last count, there were 358 signatures so far. If you are reading this and want to add your name, please sign my petition.
There are several HIV/AIDS organizations across the U.S. that I have asked for letters of support for my clemency application. Some have responded, but one here in Oregon I have been working with for more than a couple of years now. It is the oldest and largest community-based provider of HIV services, housing, education, and advocacy and is called the Cascade AIDS Project (CAP). It has finally answered my request to write a letter of support for my clemency application to the Oregon governor, which I am sharing with you, my readers, to show how I am being blessed with a great opportunity.
Now, I am going to make myself a humble representative of the HIV community, especially if I get to again be a part of society! I refuse to let anyone down who is taking a chance on me by lending their support to me personally or through an AIDS organization. I am eternally optimistic about my future freedom and advocacy work.
I was encouraged when the deputy director of CAP told me in an email that he has been working with Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek's office, "on an effort to modernize Oregon's HIV statutes." "In particular," he said, "we are hoping to limit the ability of prosecutors to use HIV status to enhance the severity of sentencing." The fact that this is finally happening now is a great thing for HIV-positive people in my state.
When I finally get out of prison, I'll contact CAP and get assigned a caseworker who should then plug me into the social services network. There will be a lot that I will have to do for myself to get adjusted back into society, which is a challenge I welcome. When I got to prison, it was the most stressful thing I ever had to do, and it was scary too! Getting out scares me, but I will remain optimistic and open minded to the changes I need to make to be a success story after release.
There are so many people that I am in contact with around the globe from them reading my blog who have given me positive feedback and are supportive of my release. I think I am in a much better situation because of the contacts I've made in the HIV community to transition out of here. Thank you to the staff at TheBody!
Stay healthy & stay safe. Tim
Read Tim's blog, HIV on the Inside.