CLIVE W. KINLOCK – THE CRIME, THE PUNISHMENT, THE INJUSTICE
(download a printer friendly PDF of this story here.)
The circumstances of my life started me down a path that eventually, and inevitably, led me to make some bad and wrong decisions. Right after high school, I ended up becoming a father, much too soon. I was not prepared for such responsibilities, especially having had no positive role modeling myself. Being young and careless, I made poor decisions that effected my overall life as an adult. The friendships that surrounded me were pulling me away from anything wholesome, added to by the lack of closeness within our family. With the perspective I’ve gained since dedicating my life to serving the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe the challenges I experienced as a black man in America , starting with my humble beginnings in Jamaica, helped me along the path that landed me in prison.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have potential. I aspired to become a professional soccer player, held down jobs from short order cook to welder, car sales and detailing, etc. Often I held down a second job to support my family but the pay I received was inadequate to cover our needs. Whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not, being black in Montana meant minimum pay no matter how many jobs you attempt to work. Hungry children are a highly motivating factor so I turned to supplemental income that promised a better reward, like many others in Montana that have far less reason. Regrettably, I began again to make ends meet by dealing pot and then experimented using it because it seemed at the time to make it easier to ignore the fact what I was doing was illegal. Marijuana use finally led to trying other drugs and even alcohol.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After immigrating to America, New York specifically, when I was 13, it didn’t take me long to realized that living in the inner city of New York did not come with a manual. It was a dog-eat-dog world and in some instances ‘dog kill dog world.’ As I grew up in that environment, I began to see men, black men, being murdered over cocaine and trying to get money. It wasn’t until I was almost killed one night that I came to my senses, realizing that, as a father now, I had to live for my kids. There was no positive role model for me to turn to in a world that seemed to want every black man dead and buried out of sight. I remember writing a letter to my unborn child in case I did not escape this life. I felt like my life was going nowhere and being wasted.
So, a couple of friends who wanted to start a small business asked me to join them in looking at other states to possibly open up a nightclub/bar, somewhere in Wyoming, the Dakotas or possibly Montana. Montana was our first stop, where we again learned that as black men from out of state, we were out of place. Local officials made it clear that the mountain setting was not a place that would socially accept a rap club of the nature we had in mind. I should have taken that as a warning and left just like my then business associates did. But I’d left New York to start over and to have a better life at a slower pace and to make my dearest mother happy and proud of me. I did make great strides in the short months I was in Montana. For starters I wasn’t selling drugs any more and I wasn’t hanging with men who wanted to shoot then ask questions later. I actually began to focus on the possibility of living past the age of 25, but I still had a big problem – I was still a black man from New York and, worse yet, a Jamaican. I remember the Great Falls police following my little sport car till I pulled over and got out, asking them why they were following me. He replied by asking if I had a bill of sale for that car. I told him I did, but why are you following me? His reply was that I had New York tags and if he saw me again in that part of the city he’d make a federal issue out of it!
Most of the money I’d saved up went towards getting my family settled. This was our second chance, a chance I did not believe we had in New York. Even so, I definitely was not made to feel welcome in Montana. For example, while working at Bison Ford doing miscellaneous work on cars I was often told not to touch someone’s vehicle because the owners did not want me in their cars. They might have a little loose change laying around. My supervisor Jerry Black said, “Clive, some people are still caught up in their old ways of thinking. They’re missing out. You’re my best worker in this bay…”
Before long I wanted out of Montana because of the oppression I was feeling but thought I’d better stick it out for a while longer. Moving one’s family is expensive. But I couldn’t seem to make enough money to have any extra left over after the essentials so I started doing window tinting as a side, right out of the trunk of my car. As the pressure increased, I turned back to my old ways of coping and began using and drinking again. The downward spiral continued when I agreed to deliver drugs to someone. The guy pulled a gun on me, keeping the drugs without paying for them, making me liable to the dealer. Another debt owed me for working on a couple fellow’s cars wasn’t paid either and my family’s financial picture was getting desperate. My children’s mother was adding to the buildup of internal pressure. I was becoming again the person I had been in New York, trying to make quick money and self-medicating to cope.
I had somehow betrayed myself by doing things to live up to the stereotypical black man in America. To me, my skin color was like a flag, a target for disrespect and hate, as if I was a threat to their existence. I hated the way I felt about myself – how the society I experienced reflected my image back to me. In that mental state I began to think that I was cursed and I wanted revenge for things that seemed so far beyond my ability to manage or control. I was doing things I didn’t want to do. In its own way, I felt that life in Great Falls, Montana, like New York, had shackled me to an existence that was sucking me further into a pit and the way out seemed lost to me. My decisions were made with a mind muddled by fear and a deep sense of failure. The stress became overwhelming as our financial needs became critical:
Circumstances of the crime(s): My mindset & circumstances at the time I committed my crime was that I was financially desperate, deeply depressed and struggling in relationship with my children’s mother. I chose to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. In that altered frame of mind I felt disrespected while drinking at a bar one night when the barmaid spilled my drink and used a racial slur as she kicked me out of the bar. I left very upset, determined to get an apology when the bar closed. By then my plan changed to include getting some money. To intimidate her I pretended to have a gun, hoping to get her to give me money but she said she couldn’t open the safe, wanting to take me to her ATM instead. I decided against this plan after we left because of surveillance so told her to return to the bar. She grabbed a pocket knife that she tried to stab me with and in the scuffle I resorted to biting her to get her to drop it She was injured in the struggle by the knife cutting her neck. After examining the wound, it appeared to be superficial so I accompanied her back into the bar to help her clean it up, then I followed her to the hospital to see that she got there safely for treatment.
The next morning I was arrested. Hospital testing results prove I had no sexual contact with the victim, which I am documenting with an attachment. However, I was coerced into confessing to the plea agreement that included sexual assault, by telling me my race was a critical factor in how I would be viewed by a jury, and because my victim was white. They also told me that if I signed their agreement I could be deported instead of going to prison. After signing it I reconsidered and tore it up, but my public defender taped it up and it was used against me. If I had not taken the plea agreement I wouldn’t have been convicted of a sexual offense. The victim’s psychological evaluation should have been taken into consideration before I was charged. My legal team failed me in many ways.
I was charged with a life sentence and incarcerated at MSP by a system that proved to me over and over that a black man in America, in Montana, had stamped me with the brand of ‘worthless’. The system seems designed especially to enslave Blacks and Native Americans. It feels like white society wants to label those of us who are different as ‘outcast’ and ‘unemployable’. What is apparent to many of us on the other side of the wire, is that justice in Montana is an illusive thing, interpreted by those who have little investment in the lives of those they discard as unnecessary or worthless. Many of us were betrayed by our so-called legal team, we are isolated from loved ones by distance and excessive phone costs, and no matter how we try to adjust and follow all the rules this prison keeps coming up with, when we go before a biased parole board we are disrespected by having our past crimes, committed long ago, thrown back in our faces like dirty laundry, and all the good we’ve accomplished is ignored and brushed aside as irrelevant, as we ourselves apparently are to them. Even when we have earned parole we are treated as chattel and sent back to our pens for reasons only known to those who have found a way to capitalize on our misery. Apparently in Montana, one can never out live their past.
To see the legal documents and the timeline of legal events please see the Document Archive