National Lifers of America, Inc. - History
On October 7, 1980, the Legislative Committee, North Side Chapter, located at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, 4000 Cooper St, Jackson, MI, relocated to the Charles Egeler Correctional Facility. An Articles of Incorporation was filed with the State of Michigan, officially establishing it as a nonprofit organization named National Lifers of America, Inc. During a prison disturbance in 1981, NLA's records were burned, and the majority of NLA's leadership was transferred to other prisons. However, NLA's message of human compassion and the need for community among lifers spread widely between 1982 and 1995. NLA initiated community projects, such as Open Prison Doors, produced display boards for United Way fundraising campaigns, and collaborated with the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation of Ann Arbor to manufacture slippers for the Red Cross, distributed to hospitalized veterans.
From 1985 to 1988, NLA established two additional chapters formerly known as 'Coalition of Inmates' Families.' In 1988, NLA was banned in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) as a retaliatory measure for testifying about corruption within the facility. None of the NLA chapters were allowed to operate or hold meetings. NLA was reinstated in early 1990 with a requirement to have an outside sponsor organization and to discontinue membership dues. Unfortunately, in 1992, NLA was again banned, simultaneously with the MDOC changing administrative rules, which had negative effects on prisoners, families, associates, and was reinstated in mid-1992. In 1995, the National Board of Directors relocated to the Ryan Correctional Facility, where the principal place of business was conducted. This move facilitated direct involvement by Executive Sponsor Fr. Timothy Kane (of St. Rita Church) with National Lifers of America, Inc. NLA Chairman Reginald C. Williams Jr. was housed at the Mound Correctional Facility, 17601 Mound Rd., Detroit, MI 48212, and Vice Chairman A’Don Reed Bey at Ryan Correctional Facility, 17600 Ryan Rd., Detroit, MI 48212.
While the Ryan Correctional Facility served as the NLA’s primary place of business, NLA annually sponsored a Back to School Charitable Project with Westside Cultural and Athletic Group to purchase school supplies for children in Detroit, MI.
Throughout the years, NLA has supported and proposed a variety of bills to members of the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, such as the Felony Murder Bill, Aiding and Abetting bill, Parole Guideline Bill, Juvenile Lifer Bills, Good Time Bills, in which Representative Cushingberry, Representative P. Condino, Representative B. Johnson, Representative A.W. Smith, Representative L. Lise, Senator M. Switalski, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took interest.
On June 1, 2006, NLA made monumental changes to strengthen the organization, including incorporating incarcerated women from the women’s prison to hold seats on the National Board of Directors with full voting rights. The first Director was Michelle Bazzetta, who immediately appointed Dr. Sharon Steward as Health Administrator. Revisions to the original By-Laws were implemented.
On April 27, 2007, the NLA was instrumental in starting the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which began at Ryan Correctional Facility. Fifteen students completed applications, and 15 University of Michigan-Dearborn outside students were selected to participate in the first class that started on September 7, 2007. The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program concluded on December 6, 2007. To date, the Michigan Department of Corrections recognizes the National Lifers of America, Inc's instrumental role in starting the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. In the same year, Dr. Lora Lampert established the Theory Workshop Group, which consisted of the first graduating class that served as an advisory committee.
In September 2012, the Ryan and Mound Correctional Facilities were closed, and transferring the majority of the National Board of Directors to other prisons eliminated the Ryan Facility as NLA's primary place of business.
NLA partnered with the Sentencing Project to bring Second Look Legislation to Michigan. This Legislation would allow individuals sentenced to life without parole before their 25th birthday an opportunity to petition for resentencing by a judge. This legislation would reduce mass incarceration in Michigan. In October 2019, the NLA successfully sponsored its first Criminal Legal System reform rally at the State of Michigan’s Capitol in Lansing, organized and led by David Hudson Bey. The rally drew about 300 attendees as the first organized prisoner event.
Like many others, 2020 was a very difficult and sad year for the NLA. On February 16, 2021, National Board of Directors Vice Chairman and National Resource Director David K. Hudson Bey passed away after more than three decades in prison. On October 13, 2020, long-standing National Board of Directors Chairman Reginald C. Williams Jr. passed away after more than four decades in prison.
With such losses to the NLA National Board of Directors, sitting National Board members had to take on the responsibility of leading the NLA into the coming years. National Chairman Carlton Banks took the helm with then National Vice Chairman Eddie 'Malijah' Gee. The current National Lifers of America Sitting board includes Eddie 'Malijah' Gee as Chairman, Jamie Meade as Vice Chairman and National Resource Director, and Dwight Henley as Secretary.
NATIONAL LIFERS OF AMERICA, INC.
a) Missing four (4) consecutive meetings where applicable unless otherwise provided here. Each absence shall be verified and recorded.
b) Any willful violation of this corporation's Bylaws, or conduct unbecoming, injuries, or hostile to the interest, welfare, integrity and/or objectives of this corporation.
2. Disciplinary Appeal. Any expulsion shall be appealable to the National Board of Directors, in writing within twenty-one (21) calendar days. The National Board of Directors shall review the entire circumstances as they transpired. A decision from the National Board of Directors shall then carry to the respective membership, where a vote shall be had within twenty-eight (28) days.
a) An affirmation vote shall constitute a reversal, and the interested party shall be notified in writing, within fourteen (14) calendar days, of his/her standing within the corporation.
b) A negative vote shall constitute a dismissal, and the interested party shall be notified, in writing, within fourteen (14) calendar days, of his/her standing within the corporation.
3. Effect of Vote. A resolution by the National Board of Directors or plurality of the vote by the respective membership regarding discipline shall stand. An expelled party may seek membership after one calendar year from the date of expulsion. A determination thereafter will be made by the National Board of Directors.
2. Proxy. Any member entitled to vote, in accordance with Article VI, Section 1, may do so in person or by proxy, executed in writing on a form furnished by the corporation, by his/her authorized representative. Such proxy shall be filed with the chapter secretary before or at the time of meeting. No proxy shall be valid eleven months from the date of execution.
3. Nominations. All nominations for office shall be in accordance to Parliamentary Procedures with nominees present to verbally accept or decline nomination.
2. Qualification. Directors shall be elected by a quorum of the membership at the principal place of business. Aspirants must have served as a director or officer of the corporation for a period of six months prior to election, or as a chair of a committee created by the chapter at the principal place of business for nine months prior to the election. In addition,
a) Four members shall be regular members serving a term of life.b) One member shall be regular member, serving a minimum prison term of ten calendar years or more.c) Two members shall be the National Resource Director and State Director appointed by resolution of the National Board of Directors.d) Two members shall be the President and Vice-President of the chapter at the principal place of business.
At the first meeting of the National Board of Directors following annual elections, the directors shall select by majority bote from amongst themselves a single director to act as Chairperson.
The Chairperson shall have general supervisory powers over the affairs of the corporation, National Board of Directors, corporate chapters and membership, with the assistance of the vice chairperson. And shall preside at all meetings of the National Board of Directors.
3. Appointments. The National Board of Directors shall appoint an executive secretary, as well as executive directors, by a majority vote, to serve at their pleasure, as National Resource Director, State Director, External and Internal Administrators. These administrators shall serve in an advisory capacity to the National Board of Directors.
The National Board of Directors shall appoint ex-officio directors to serve as directors on the State Board of Directors as it deems necessary or convenient to effect any purpose for which the corporation was formed.
The National Board of Directors shall appoint by resolution, an Internal State Director to further the lawful purposes of the corporation by coordinating the establishment of state chapters, and providing technical assistance in corporate affairs as the National Board of Directors may, from time to time require.
The National Board of Directors shall, in it's discretion, authorize the National Resource Director, by resolution, to act as resident agent for the corporation and, with power of attorney, signed by the chairperson and bearing the seal when necessary, to manage any affairs and transact any business as is naturally or properly within the scope of the corporation, at its National registered office.
It shall be the duty of the National Resource Director to develop and coordinate strategies for the accumulation and enhancement of corporate resources in concert with state chapters in tandem with the External State Director, to effect any purpose for which the corporation was formed.
4. Vacancies. A vacancy in the officer of a director or executive director because of death, resignation or removal, disqualification or otherwise, shall be filled by the National Board of Directors. The corporation's resident agent may resign in a manner consistent with the provisions MCL 450.2243 et seq.
5. Powers and Duties. The corporation shall be set up on a directorship basis, and the National Board of Directors shall prescribe their duties, and have offices, by resolution, and exercise the powers granted by these Bylaws, and have and exercise all powers necessary or convenient to effect any purpose for which the corporation is formed. (Amended 7-27-92 to comply with MDOC policy.)
6. Compensation. The National Board of Directors shall serve without compensation. (Amended 7-27-92 to comply with MDOC policy.)
7. Location of Meetings and Records. The National Board of Directors shall designate any place, either within or without the State of Michigan, as the place of meeting for any regular or special meeting called by the National Board of Directors. If no designation is made, or if a regular or special meeting is called, the place of meeting shall be the principal place of business of the corporation in the State of Michigan. The National Board of Directors shall keep books and records of accounts and minutes of the proceedings of its regular or special meetings or its meetings with the chapter at the principal place of business subject, at all times, to inspection by any member of the corporation of other person duly authorized by law to inspect such records. These records are subject to inspection by MDOC administrative or custodial staff at any time. (Amended 7-27-92 to comply with MDOC Policy.)
8. Meetings. The National Board of Directors shall meet as often as practicable. Regular or special meetings shall be held at the call of the Chairperson.
9. Quorum. At any regular or special meeting, four (4) Directors or combination of Executive Directors with full voting privileges shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any business, and a majority vote shall control and be the action of the corporation with respect to all matters presented to the National Board of Directors. Fewer than a quorum may adjourn any meeting from day to day until a quorum is established.
10. Attendance. Attendance at meetings of the National Board of Directors is required of each director. Four (4) consecutive absences shall be grounds for removal of a director, except where a director has applied for a leave of absence on justifiable grounds.
2. Term of Office. The term of office shall be two years, subject to re-appointment by the National Board of Directors.
3. Qualifications. State Directors must be civilians in good standing with the corporation and possess an interest or background in the area of criminal justice or prisoner adocacy.
4. State Officers. The chairperson of the State Board shall be appointed by the National Board of Directors, with full voting privileges on the National Board.
A the first quarterly meeting of the State Board, the membership shall elect a vice-chairperson to serve in the absence of the chairperson, a secretary and a treasurer. The duties and responsibilities of the secretary and treasurer, where applicable, essentially parrot the duties and responsibilities of their chapter counterpart.
5. Powers and Duties. State directors, except as otherwise provided in these Bylaws, are advisory to the National Board of Directors. State directors are to provide technical assistance to the National Board of Directors in providing the services and programs of the corporation to members, in developing strategies to address issues of social significance to the corporation, by coordinating with other organizations, and to provide such other assistance as the National Board of Directors may, from time to time require.
6. Vacancies. A vacancy in any office of the state director, except the chairperson, because of death, resignation, removal, disqualification or otherwise shall be filled through selection and appointment of the chairperson, after consultation with the remaining state directors, for the unexpired portion of the term, subject to confirmation by the National Board of Directors, in an instrument or document bearing the signature of the chairperson and corporate seal.
7. Meetings. The state board shall meet on a quarterly basis for the purpose of conducting the affairs of the corporation, as prescribed by the National Board of Directors, at a site selected by the chairperson, within the State of Michigan. Other special meetings of the state board may, from time to time, be call by the chairperson.
1. Composition. The president, vice-president, secretary, and ways and means director, shall be appointed pro tempore by the National Board of Directors, and elected by the membership of the respective chapter before October 1st of each year thereafter. All chapter officers shall exercise such powers and duties as shall be determined, from time to time, by the National Board of Directors. 2. Qualification. The President and Vice-President shall be serving a term of life or indeterminate sentence and be subject to the Lifer Law. Aspirants must be of good character and except for pro tempore appointees, shall be regular members active in the prospective chapter for six (6) months or more as a director or officer prior to election or as chair of a committee created by the chapter at the principal place of business for nine (9) months prior to the election.
3. Term of Office. The term of office for chapter officers shall be one year beginning October 1st and running to September 30th. In case of newly formed chapters, officers appointed pro tempore by the National Board of Directors who have served less than six months by September 30th of te year they were appointed shall continue to serve until September 30th.
4. Elections. The chapter president shall supervise all local board elections except where the sitting president is running for re-election, in which case the secretary or local board designee supervises the election of the President, who then presides over the election of remaining local board positions.
5. Vacancies. A vacancy in any chapter office because of death, resignation, removal, disqualification or otherwise may be filled by a majority vote of the remaining chapter officers, for the unexpired portion of the term, subject to confirmation by a quorum of the respective chapter membership.
6. President/Vice-President. The president shall have general supervisory powers over the affairs of the chapter, its committees, membership, with the assistance of the vice-president. The president and vice-president shall perform such other duties and responsibilities as determined by the National Board of Directors including, but not limited to establishing chapter committees, appointing, pursuant to Article II (2), appointing, with the consent of other chapter officers, committee chairpersons, to serve in necessary capacities as determined by the local board.
7. Secretary. The secretary shall attend all regular and special meetings of the chapter, held at the call of the president, and shall keep a record of all such meetings. The secretary shall perform all other duties as may be prescribed to him by the chapter president.
Minutes of proceedings of all meetings held by the chapter shall be recorded and prepared by the secretary and, once approved, a copy shall be promptly mailed to the chairperson of the National Board of Directors and the external sponsor.
8. Local Board. The entire management of the local chapter shall be vested in the Local Board. The Local Board of Directors shall consist of the chapter president, vice-president, secretary and all committee chairpersons. It shall be the duties of the Local Board to insure that management of the Chapter is in right accord with the Bylaws of the National Lifers of America, Inc. The term of office shall be one year on October 1st and ending on September 30th.
9. Location of Meetings and Records. Unless otherwise specified in the resolution creating a chapter, the chapter location shall be the place of meeting for regular and special meetings held at the call of the President. Each chapter shall keep books and records of accounts and minutes of proceedings of its regular or special meetings at the chapter office, subject at all times to inspection by any member of the corporation or other persons duly authorized by law to inspect such records.
10. Meetings. Each chapter shall meet as often as practicable. Regular or special meetings shall be held at the call of the president.
11. Discipline. The local board of directors, governed by Article V, Section (1)(a) and (b) of the Bylaws of the National Lifers of America, Inc., may expel any member of the local chapter.
APPROVED BY THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
CHAIRMAN: Reggie Williams
STATE DIRECTOR: Tommy Blythewood
DIRECTOR: A'don Reed Bey
DIRECTOR: Eugene C. Potts
DIRECTOR: David Hudson Bey
DIRECTOR: John E. Bennett
DIRECTOR: Alfredo X. Robinson
EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Father Tim Kane
DATED: June 1, 2005