Dear Governor Brown,

I know how busy you are with the drought, long-term funding liabilities and health-care coverage on your plate.  These are huge challenges that impact our entire state.

But sometimes I think government needs to get personal, especially if a matter is a positive symbol that affects a family and a whole community.  So, I’m writing to request that you add one more item to your agenda.  It’s something that would send a valuable message of hope, redemption and pride.

My late friend, Luther T. Jessie, Jr., made some big mistakes more than 25 years ago.  He was arrested and convicted of drug possession and being armed with a deadly weapon.  He was paroled in 1990, and successfully completed his parole in 1992.  In 1998, he was granted a petition for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

After his release from prison, Luther became a hard-working, productive and inspirational member of our Oakland community.  His professional career focused on serving as a certified addiction specialist. He focused on assessing and managing mental health and substance abuse treatment services for criminal justice populations, including violent offender re-entry.  For the last two decades, he served as the Division Director of Residential Services for the East Bay Community Recovery Project, where he helped women (and their young children) in the criminal justice system turn their lives around.

I worked with Luther to bring some of “his” families to Children’s Fairyland for a day of joy and healing, and I attended the recent opening of his program’s permanent supportive housing units in Oakland.

For more than a decade, Luther was also a substance abuse counselor with Humanistic Alternatives to Addiction Research and Treatment (HAART), where he specialized in crisis intervention and relapse prevention strategies for men and women on parole and probation.  He also served as the president of the board of directors for Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services (PEERS), promoting mental health, empowerment and social inclusion.

Luther was also active in our city’s premier service organization, Oakland Rotary.  He served on their board and on a number of related committees.  I got to know Luther through Rotary, where he was recognized by all as the best-dressed member in the club.

But Luther’s proudest achievement was fatherhood.  He spent as much time as possible with his sons Ryan (19) and Luther III (15).  He attended all of their football games and other extra-curricular activities.  Anyone who ever met Luther also knew that he was the most enthusiastic and loyal Raiders fan ever.  He and his sons attended and followed every single game.

For 16 years, Luther had sought a gubernatorial pardon. Then, last month, he passed away unexpectedly. At the celebration of his life, a long line of people addressed a packed room, most of them citing examples of how Luther helped them turn their lives around.  His wife Candice and sons were presented with formal commendations from the California State Assembly, the County of Alameda and the City of Oakland for Luther’s decades-long commitment to social justice and staunch advocacy for some of the most vulnerable individuals and their families throughout Alameda County.

Gov. Brown, Luther died without having been formally pardoned. Some people may think the issue doesn’t matter anymore. But I know how much it would have meant to him, and still means to his wife and to his sons, to know that the State of California acknowledged the remarkable transformation of a man who touched the lives of so many of our community’s most marginalized people.

Luther understood the importance of setting good examples.  He showed, time and again, that he’d learned from his past mistakes, and viewed obtaining a pardon as a final testament to the success of his own rehabilitation.

Mr. Governor, we know that as a proud Oaklander you’re aware of all of the challenges faced by our city.  It is with a great deal of respect for you , and all you do, that I ask you to get personal and grant a posthumous gubernatorial pardon for our friend, Luther T. Jessie, Jr.  I know that the positive ripples will be felt throughout our community.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

C.J. Hirschfield

 

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

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One Response

  1. Lorie Alemania

    I could not agree more with CJ’s assessment of Luther. Truly a remarkable and inspirational man. I consider myself blessed to have met him through Rotary.

    Reply

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