Veronza Bowers, Jr.

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the family & friends of Veronza Bowers, Jr.
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Who is Veronza?

Veronza Bowers Jr. is an inmate at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. He is a former member of the Black Panther Party incarcerated in federal prison for over 46 years, making him one of the longest-held inmates in U.S. history.

In the more than four decades of his confinement, Veronza has become a "model "prisoner. He is an author, musician, a student of Asian healing arts and has a strong interest in Buddhist meditation, as well as "hands-on" healing techniques which he practiced at the various facilities in which he has been incarcerated. Veronza is also an honorary elder of the Lompoc Tribe of Five Feathers, a Native American spiritual and cultural group. He is a mentor and founder of the All-Faith Meditation Group, a non-denominational spiritual organization devoted to healing meditation using the traditional Japanese shakuhachi flute which he has been blowing for over 30 years. Veronza is a member of the International Shakuhachi Society.

Why was Veronza sent to prison over 46 years ago?

In 1973, Veronza was convicted in the murder of a U.S. Park Ranger on the word of two government informers, both of whom received reduced sentences for other crimes by the Federal prosecutor's office. There were no eye-witnesses and no evidence independent of these informants to link him to the crime. At his trial, Veronza offered alibi testimony which was not credited by the jury. Nor was testimony of two relatives of the informants who insisted that they were lying. The informants had all charges against them in this case dropped and one was given $10,000 by the government according to the prosecutor's post-sentencing report. Veronza has consistently proclaimed his innocence of the crime he never committed — even at the expense of having his appeals for parole denied — for which an admission of guilt and contrition is virtually required — he insists on maintaining his innocence.

The Black Panther Party was targeted by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in its infamous Cointelpro Operation which, during its years of operation from 1956 to 1971, surveilled, infiltrated, manipulated and tried to provoke criminal activities by entirely lawful civil rights and peace demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to oppose government policies. Hoover referred to the BPP as "the greatest threat to the internal security of this country" and authorized surveillance of many black and antiwar leaders including Martin Luther King.

Despite letters of support from prominent attorneys, former high-ranking representatives of regional commissions, prison officials and a member of the U.S. Congress, Veronza has continually been denied release due to intervention by the U.S. Parole Commission. A recent decision by the regional federal parole commission to grant his release was overturned by the National Commission. With the truth coming out daily about the high incidence of inmates who have been falsely convicted and imprisoned, exonerations of Death Row prisoners (156 to date), police and prosecutorial malfeasance and other failures of the criminal justice system, Veronza's case deserves careful review.

How is it possible for a citizen of the USA to:

1. Serve his complete sentence under law;
2. Go thorough the entire parole process having his release recommended at every stage and at each hearing;
3. Have his release date for Mandatory Parole rescinded four times at, literally, the very last minute;
4. Have the highest administrative parole body in the nation vote on and fail to overturn his petition for parole

. . . and still be held in prison for so many years after this sentence expired?

June 21, 2005, was the day Veronza Bowers was to be released from federal prison on mandatory parole after more than 31 years of incarceration. This date was based on a vote of the five-member U.S. Parole Commission in Washington, D.C., the highest governing body in our nation's parole system. We just learned that, once again, at the very last moment, Veronza's release has been cancelled.

This action was based on a petition filed by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting that the National Appeals Board "reconsider" their decision granting him parole. The USPC has, thereby, "retarded" Veronza's release (no pun intended) "for a period not to exceed 60 days". This order for reconsideration by the Attorney General was made at the behest of a law enforcement group called the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Our legal team strongly feels that this unprecedented action on the part of the USPC is totally illegal and based on no credible evidence whatsoever. It violates the Commission's own guidelines and procedural regulations. The rule of law that should guide the Commission in this case has clearly been undermined by political pressure exerted at the highest levels of the current administration.

The truth of the matter is that Veronza has served his full sentence under law plus 16 months of illegal detention. He has been a model prisoner with the highest possible Bureau of Prison rating and recommended for parole several times, only to have his release rescinded, literally, at the last minute. He received a very favorable review and recommendation for release based on rigorous psychological and personality testing administered by a highly-reputable independent agency. His petitions for parole have been strongly supported by a number of prison officials and administrators who worked closely with him over the years and can't say enough about his role as a mentor and role model to younger inmates. His efforts to be released have also been supported in writing by a former member of the USPC, head of the NY Parole Commission and a member of the U.S. Congress. Over the last three decades, he has worked hard to improve himself in all ways possible—personally, socially and spiritually. Yet, he continues to languish in prison, be subjected to threats and intimidation, demeaned by the news media and falsely accused by the very group that claims to be the guardian of law and order in our society. Today is a sad day for America and for the spirit of democracy in our land.

Learn more about this latest travety of jusice.

What can you do about it?

Newspaper Articles About Veronza

Isaac Fulwood's Feelings As Parole Commissioner: Couldn't Be More Personal

By Wil Haygood
Washington Post
Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mystery Develops At Little-Known Federal Office

By Joe Stephens
Washington Post
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reporting By Joe Stephens
Based on legal filings, private documents, e-mails and interviews.
Washington Post
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Magistrate Cited Bias in the Case of Veronza Bowers Jr.
By Joe Stephens
Washington Post
Saturday, June 6, 2009

What do Prison Administrators and Unit Managers who work day-to-day with Veronza have to say about him?

Testimony of Mr. Jeffrey Bryan, Unit Manager at FCC Coleman Medium at a recent parole hearing:

" I have known inmate Bowers for-the best I can pinpoint-approximately 17 years . . . . I have been with the Bureau of Prisons for 25 years in March and this is my first time ever speaking on behalf of an inmate.

" As I said, I have known Bowers for approximately 17 years, maybe even more, but it's very unusual having come through the ranks as a correctional officer, a lieutenant, a captain-I have worked in the regional office, I have worked in the central office, I have been a disciplinary hearing officer, and now I'm a unit manager. It's very unusual to run into an inmate who can do five years, ten years, 15 years, 20 years, 21 years is the exception, and this is exceptional that the inmate could conduct himself in an institution in such a manner as not to even receive an incident report. Incident reports are very easy to get and he has set the standard for not getting any incident reports.  I can address the fact that as a Bureau of Prisons employee, we all wish we had an institution full of inmates who can go 21 years without an incident report.

" And I will just reiterate one more time that in 25 years, almost, with the Bureau of Prisons, I have never done this, but when he asked me to come speak to you today, I didn't hesitate a second. I think it's worthy to note that he's been around this long and done this good in the Bureau."

Testimony of Ms. Cheryl Jiminez, case manager in the Skills Program, FCC Coleman Medium at Veronza's parole hearing:

" The Skills Program is a pilot program . . . designed for inmates that are actually special needs for low-functioning learning disabled. They can't have a GED or to be in the program and . . . usually can't even read. A lot of them probably won't ever be able to [get a GED], but we're improving their skills so they can function better in prison and upon release, like getting a job and teaching them social skills like communication and anger management, problem solving.

" We have counted on the mentors to live with the students and Mr. Bowers has been someone that we've counted on to handle our most difficult students, the problem inmates that get frustrated easily, that have very poor problem solving.

" Mr. Bowers has been a role model in the unit and the inmates will listen to another inmate more than staff. They kind of believe he's been there, he understands, and he's been very helpful in that program.

" He lives with the student. He helps them academically with their homework, teaching them to read, arithmetic and anything else. He goes over the problem solving [and homework] in those classes.

" He does the meditation class in the chapel as well as on the unit. That's been helpful for inmate to relax. They really enjoy it. [Mr. Bowers} established with the chaplains and the recreation department a meditation program . . . and he is the primary facilitator for that group. . . . He's been a positive role model in that program. I have always heard him be very respectful, very appropriate to staff and inmates."

Read other
Letters, Testimony, Resolutions & Evaluations in Support of Veronza's Parole

Would Veronza be a "Threat to Society" if released from prison on Mandatory Parole?

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.”

Hear Sally O'Brien's Interview with

Veronica Conway (Veronza's Daughter) & Paulette D'Auteuil

Veronza & Veronica

Aired on WBAI 99.5 FM New York City Public Radio
June 23, 2005

View other photos of Veronza, Family & Friends


Veronza with daughter Veronica and his grandchildren

Veronza can be reached at the following address:
Veronza Bowers, Jr.
FCI-2, PO Box 1500
Butner, NC 27509

Radio Interview with Veronza Bowers, Jr.

Who Needs Prisons, And Who Do The Prisons Need? Part 2

Hosted by   Aired on public radio station KZYX on Sunday, December 29, 2002.

You can hear the entire program now by clicking on the link above.