|Letters in Support of Parole by
Monty H. Levenson
United States Parole Commission
U.S.P. Terre Haute
P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808
I am writing on behalf of Mr. Veronza Bowers, Jr. #35316-136, who will be considered for parole in the near future. I am a maker of traditional Japanese shakuhachi flutes since 1970 and the only foreign craftsman providing instruments to teachers of traditional music in Japan and professional musicians worldwide. I am also on the Board of Governors of the International Shakuhachi Society, a nonprofit organization based in Wadhurst, England. This instrument has been associated for centuries with Buddhist meditation practice in Japan and increasingly in the west.
I have known Mr. Bowers for approximately seven years since he first wrote expressing interest in my work with shakuhachi. I regularly receive letters of inquiry from members of the prison population as well as referrals from the American Buddhist Society and other religious and humanitarian organizations. Since that time I have provided Mr. Bowers with three flutes which he has developed an extraordinary mastery of. The shakuhachi is a difficult instrument to learn and play well. It is unusual for an individual - even within a traditional teaching context - to reach the level of proficiency that Mr. Bowers has achieved in so short a period of time. Apparently he has the diligence and self-discipline, not to mention talent, to reach such an impressive level of skill. I am familiar with Mr. Bower's progress on the shakuhachi as he has provided me with cassette recordings of music he has composed, arranged and performed. This music is clearly as accomplished as some of the commercial recordings currently available. There is some interest within the International Shakuhachi Society to produce an album of his original compositions for distribution to its membership. Mr. Bowers has also written an impressive article on music healing which has been accepted for publication in the forthcoming Annals of the Society.
It is my understanding that Mr. Bowers employs the shakuhachi flute as part of a meditation group he has organized at the prison. This interest in healing himself ast well as others - has motivated him to study the ancient arts and philosophy of China and Japan. As a practitioner of Yoga, Acupressure, Shiatsu and Tsubo Massage Therapy, he has helped several inmates at the prison both physically and spiritually. The difficult path Mr. Bowers has chosen and the context in which it is manifest are clearly an indication of his character. His commitment to self-improvement, wholeness and helping others would be a great challenge to those of us in more fortuitous circumstances.
I understand the gravity of the offense for which Mr. Bowers has been convicted. He has, however, spent more than half his life in prison and, under conditions of adversity, has exhibited unique abilities to help others and improve himself on all levels. If the purpose of incarceration in the U.S. Prison System is rehabilitation of an individual's social and moral fiber, your institution appears to have been most successful in this instance. I respectfully request that you consider Mr. Bowers for parole at his upcoming hearing. As a colleague and friend sharing similar values and spiritual concerns, I personally commit myself to support his continued personal growth in any and all ways possible if he is returned to society.
I would like to add that Mr. Bowers has never once solicited my help for anything at all, be it musical instruments and related items or assistance with his parole hearing. (Nor have I ever written a letter of support for an individual in a similar circumstance.) He has been remarkably unassuming, gracious and sensitive in all of our interactions.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Monty H. Levenson
January 17, 1994
National Appeals Board Analyst
United State Parole Commission
Park Place Building
5550 Friendship Blvd.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
I am writing to you on behalf of Mr. Veronza Bowers, Jr. #35316-136 whose parole appeal is being considered by the National Commissioners. Find enclosed a letter I submitted to the Regional Parole Commission in Terre Haute, Indiana during July of last year.
I have been in touch with Mr. Bowers since that time and it is evident that he continues to exhibit extraordinary progress in his rehabilitative process. I sincerely hope that the National Commission will reconsider the decisions handed down thus far in this case. Mr. Bowers has done much to improve his character and distinguish himself under the most challenging of circumstances. His behavior and moral bearing while in prison show a depth of compassion as well as a unique ability to help others less fortunate than himself. I urge you to allow him the opportunity to return to our society which is so greatly in need of the special gifts and spiritual perspective he has to offer. I remain sincere in my offer to assist his reentry process in any and all ways possible.
Monty H. Levenson
October 28, 1995
United States Parole Commission
U.S.P. Terre Haute
P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, IN. 47808
Re: Veronza Bowers, Jr. (#35316-136)
I am submitting to you letters I have written in the past supporting Mr. Veronza Bowers, Jr.'s petition for parole.
I maintain regular contact with Mr. Bowers who continues to exhibit great progress in his rehabilitative process and well as extraordinary depth in developing his moral and spiritual character. I am most impressed with Mr. Bowers efforts on behalf of other inmates in organizing and leading the Rastafarian Meditation Group with meets at the prison chapel.
Mr. Bowers continues to evolve as a player of the shakuhachi flute, whose origins are based in Japanese Buddhist meditation. This is a most difficult instrument to master, requiring the utmost concentration, patience and determination - qualities which Mr. Bower's clearly manifests in his work toward developing a strong moral center. His work with shakuhachi has gained the attention of master teachers of the traditional music in Japan who are astounded with the progress he has achieved.
I firmly believe that it is time to grant this petition for parole and allow Mr. Bowers to use his unique human potential for the benefit of society.
I continue to offer any assistance within my means to assist his reentry process which I hope will be forthcoming soon.
Monty H. Levenson
August 27, 2005
United States Parole Commission
Park Place Building
5550 Friendship Blvd. (Suite 420)
Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7286
FAX: (301) 492-5543 / (301) 492-5307
To the Attention of:
Mr. Edward F. Reilly, Jr. (Chairman); Mr. Cranston J. Mitchell; Ms. Deborah A. Spagnoli; Ms. Patricia Cushwa and Mr. Isaac Fulwood
Re: Veronza Bowers, Jr. Plea for Mandatory Parole
To the Commissioners,
I am writing, once again, on behalf of Mr. Veronza Bowers, Jr. #35316-136, whose plea for mandatory parole is presently under consideration by the Commission on October 5, 2005.
I am a maker of traditional Japanese shakuhachi flutes since 1970 and the only American craftsman providing instruments to teachers of traditional music in Japan and professional musicians worldwide. I am also on the Board of Governors of the International Shakuhachi Society, a nonprofit organization with a global membership. This instrument has been associated for centuries with the practice of Buddhist meditation in Japan and, increasingly, in the West.
I have known Mr. Bowers for approximately seventeen years since he first wrote expressing interest in my work with shakuhachi. During this time, we have become close friends and I have done as much as possible to advocate for his release from prison and return to society. I regularly receive letters of inquiry from members of the prison population as well as referrals from the American Buddhist Society and other religious and humanitarian organizations. This, however, is the first and only time I have taken on such a role. I do so with the firm conviction that Veronza Bowers, Jr. has many personal qualities and social skills much needed in our world today.
Over the years, I have provided Mr. Bowers with three flutes which he has developed an extraordinary mastery of. The shakuhachi is a difficult instrument to learn and play well. It is unusual for an individual—even within a traditional teaching context—to reach the level of proficiency that Mr. Bowers has achieved in so short a period of time. Apparently he has the diligence, focus and self-discipline, not to mention talent, to achieve such an accomplishment.
Aside from his personal spiritual practice, Mr. Bowers employs the shakuhachi flute as part of the All-Faith Meditation Group he has organized at both the Terre Haute and Coleman prison facilities. This interest in healing (himself as well as others) has motivated Mr. Bowers to study the ancient arts and philosophy of China and Japan. As a practitioner of Yoga, Acupressure, Shiatsu and Tsubo Massage Therapy, he has helped several inmates at the prison both physically and spiritually overcome obstacles to their health and personal development. Mr. Bowers has also been honored by the Native American community as an honorary elder for his support and teaching of their spiritual and cultural practices. He has worked with at-risk youth, inmates with anger-management problems and as a mentor and tutor for prisoners with learning disabilities. Prison officials at many of the institutions where he has served have expressed their admiration and appreciation for his efforts in these realms. The difficult path Mr. Bowers has chosen and the context in which it is manifest are clearly an indication of his character. His commitment to self-improvement, wholeness and helping others would be a great challenge to those of us in more fortuitous circumstances.
I understand the gravity of the offense for which Mr. Bowers has been convicted as well as his claim of innocence maintained over three decades. While some may feel that remorse and contrition are more appropriate responses, Mr. Bower’s has steadfastly held to his version of the truth, even when admission to a crime he claims not to have committed may have helped him gain release on parole. I in no way wish to question the circumstance of his original conviction, but will share with the Commission that on more than one occasion Mr. Bower’s has, without solicitation or prompts, expressed to me his sincere compassion for the victim of the crime and his family and anguish over the tragedy into which he and they have all been cast.
It is neither my role nor your deliberation to question the validity of judicial due process in this case. My intent here is only to point out that Mr. Bowers has fully served the sentence handed down by the court at the time of his conviction. He has spent more than thirty years in prison and, under conditions of extreme adversity, exhibited unique abilities to help others and improve himself on all levels. After a rough start, he has served the last twenty-one years of his incarceration without a single incident report, an accomplishment that is virtually unheard of. (In this regard, I point to the testimony of Mr. Jeffrey Bryan, Unit Manager at FCC Coleman and prison employee for over twenty-five years.) Mr. Bowers is a model prisoner with the highest salient factor rating possible. As you well know, his efforts to gain parole have been supported by prison officials, attorneys, former members of regional and the U.S. Parole Commission itself, not to mention two members of the U.S. Congress, Mr. Dan Hamburg of California and Ms. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. These are distinguished professionals and public servants many of whom, like myself, have never before advocated for a prison inmate. Mr. Bowers case is, indeed, unique and I plead with the Commission to give full consideration to all sides of the issue.
Finally, I would like to address the concerns of those who would consider Mr. Bowers to be a threat to society if released. On December 14, 2004 Mr. Hans H. Selvog, M.S.W., L.C.S.W, a licensed clinical social worker and Clinical Director of the Augustus Institute (National Center on Institutions and Alternatives of Baltimore, Maryland) submitted to this Commission a forensic assessment of Veronza Bowers, Jr. concerning his current suitability as a candidate for parole. The exhaustive evaluation consisted of a mental status exam, psychological testing and risk assessment. It also reviewed Mr. Bowers’ behavioral adjustment record while incarcerated.
In this report, Mr. Selvog writes of Mr. Bowers:
“ In general his responses suggest
a well-established need for social approval and commendation, as evidenced
by his tendencies
to present himself
in a favorable
light. That being said, his overall profile does not indicate any significant
generalized antisocial tendencies, nor does he show an underlying predisposition
to break social rules. Further, his level of social maladjustment is in the
normal range, indicating he has an awareness of appropriate social expectations
and norms. Taken as a whole, his profile indicates he does not have a value
system typical of that found in criminal populations. Furthermore, in this
regard, he is seen as not having significant authority conflicts; hence it
appears he can relate to authority figures. . . . it is noted he is generally
experiencing well below average levels of anger; hence this emotion does not
appear to be driving his behavior(s). . . . Based on an analysis of the [Psychological
Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS)], it is demonstrated Mr. Bowers
does not exhibit a criminal-lifestyle thinking pattern. . . . Additionally,
based on the data collected form [The Violence Risk Assessment Guide, an actuarially
derived instrument designed to identify the probability an individual will
violently re-offend in a violent manner within the next seven and ten years]
there is little evidence to suggest that he is at risk to recidivate in a violent
manner. Moreover, these instruments also suggest the absence of risk factors
that would predict general recidivism.”
Mr. Selvog ends his extensive report with the following conclusion:
“ Other than the offense of conviction, Mr. Bowers had no prior criminal record. In my estimation, he openly and honestly discussed his institutional adjustment and incident reports to the fullest of his ability, recounting from memory 31 years of experience. It appears that the overwhelming majority of his confinement is without violation while replete with prosocial accomplishment.
“ Moreover, psychological testing confirmed my clinical impressions of Mr. Bowers as someone who does not suffer from any psychiatric or personality disorders that would prohibit him from maintaining a normal, prosocial way of living and relating. Nor does he harbor a corrupt or criminally oriented style of thinking or perceiving. Actuarial risk assessment provided additional support that Mr. Bowers, should he be granted parole, would in all likelihood continue to engage in a lifestyle that is respectful of himself and others.”
If the purpose of incarceration is the rehabilitation of an individual's social and moral fiber, the Bureau of Prisons appears to have been most successful in this instance. Mr. Bowers behavior and moral bearing while in prison show, not only an exemplary adaptation to institutional rules, but a depth of compassion as well as a unique ability to help others less fortunate than himself. I respectfully request that you support his plea for mandatory parole at this time in keeping with the Commission own Mission Statement from which I quote:
“ The mission of the United States
Parole Commission is to promote public safety and strive for justice and
fairness in the exercise
of its authority
and supervise offenders under its jurisdiction. The Commission achieves these
goals through a conscientious application of its guidelines to each case, tempered
by a willingness to give due regard to individual circumstances. Its guiding
principle is to apply the least restrictive sanction that is consistent with
public safety and the appropriate punishment of the offense.”
Please allow Veronza Bowers, Jr. the opportunity to return to our society which is so greatly in need of the special gifts, skills and spiritual perspective he has to offer. I beg you to allow him to return to the loving arms of his family and friends who have been denied his embrace yet stood behind him these many years.
As a colleague and friend sharing similar values and spiritual concerns, I personally commit myself to support Mr. Bowers continued personal growth in any and all ways possible if he is returned to society. I solemnly pledge to each of the Commissioners that I will take an proactive role in his life, if and when you grant his plea. This includes all of the resources at my disposal—including personal, professional and financial—to insure the success of his adaptation to life outside of prison walls.
My apologies for the length of this letter. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Monty H. Levenson
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