Yakik Rumley Writes About Wrongful Conviction

By Journalist Ms. Jones

QUEENS – 11R0034 is a number that Yakik Rumley never wants to hear again. This was his NYS Department Identification Number (DIN) that he was assigned when he was an inmate in the NYS Department of Corrections. Rumley was wrongly convicted of 2nd degree burglary in December 2010 and went upstate to Ogdensburg Correctional Facility in January 2011. He served 26 months of a 42-month sentence and beat his conviction in an appeal.

“I never committed burglary… I was black and I had a white fiancé… You just don’t think about those things, [even with] with all the heightened racism that’s going on… I kicked [her] out… She was staying with [a] girlfriend in Queens… She was like, ‘Oh, come and get your ring back.’… I went over there, we got into a heated argument… Her friend called the cops on me… My intention was to speak to my fiancé and get my engagement ring back and move on and I was set up,” said Rumley. “If you know you’re innocent, you don’t plead guilty… That’s why I took the case to trial.”

Rumley’s jury was all white and Asian.

“There was nobody of color on my jury… It doesn’t matter how much money or prestige you have. If… a female, white… says something about you, they’re believing her word over yours,” said Rumley who thinks it’s everyone’s responsibility to serve jury duty. “I know what it’s like to be with an unfair jury… I think it’s important that people go on there to do their civic duty.”

Rumley authored three books while in Vernon C. Bain “The BOAT,” Rikers, and Ogdensburg Correctional Facilities. The first one is titled “The Transformation of My Life.”

“I came up with the title[s]… based on my experience at each one of those facilities. So, in ‘The Transformation of My Life,’ I talk about how I…went from… being on the top of my field professionally, and how quickly the transformation happened… ending up in prison. And it was a combination of poor decisions. Poor people I associated with. Definitely the women I was dating at the time… So, the books were a way for me to write like a daily journal for everything that was happening in my life,” said Rumley who earned a Bachelors degree from Hampton University, a Masters degree from Adelphi University, became a certified teacher, and has served as an Assistant Athletic Director at several universities before being incarcerated.

Rumley’s second book is called “Black Men & Prison Behavior.”

“When I wrote ‘Black Men &Prison Behavior,’ I talked about how as black men to be so careful… the system… how it’s easy to get in and harder to get out… I got denied work release… I was given… three and a half years. The first year I went before the… work release board, had all letters of recommendation from the church, different people, and they denied me… Then, I went before them again in 2012, and they denied me again… and then I went before them again in… early ’13 and they denied me. But, what was funny about this denial was it got denied three weeks before my case got overturned,” said Rumley who also wrote about things that go on in prison. “People would sell food for phone calls… Correctional Officers… would bring in cigarettes and McDonald’s [for inmates]… [There were inmates] fooling around with the officers.”

There are some prison behaviors that Rumley says he would be happy to lose.

“There’s certain prison habits I have… I still get up really early in the morning… I’ll wake up like 4 or 4:30 in the morning… They used to get you up so early for breakfast [or the count],” said Rumley who also constantly wonders if people are trying to con him. Prison also trains inmates to look down. “You are told to look down on your walk and look straight ahead. You don’t make contact with the correctional officers…. And when you’re also eating you always look down. You only have like two minutes before officers say to get up and throw away your food. When you sit down to eat, you quickly want to eat…I definitely still do that. I’ve actually seen myself do that on dates… I’m still… conditioned to eating fast… I’m more of a loner, I guess. Prison… I’m used to being alone. I’m used to doing things by myself… I don’t like being around a lot of people. I prefer not to go in… big groups.”
Rumley’s third book is called “Finding Positive Relationships After Adversity.”

“How I came up with that title was, I thought about… finding positive relationships now that I went to prison because of a female. How do I go about starting a whole new dating process?… That book was based on the Israeli girl who I was engaged to and her friend called the cops on me… I had a very difficult time dating women after I first came home from prison because after what I went through, and knowing that it was my ex-fiancé’s friend that set me up… and basically the person I was engaged to didn’t even stand up for me and basically wanted to give me as much time as possible,” said Rumley who now finds that some women are scared of him because of this experience. “When I first came home in 2013… I had a couple girls Google me… The first question I was asked was, ‘Oh, why didn’t you tell me you were in prison?’… I don’t Google anybody. If I meet someone. I try to get to know them through the dating experience and see where it goes… I wait until I really trust them… and then I say… ‘I was formerly incarcerated.’”

Even though Rumley’s case was overturned, being in prison has affected his employment.

His teaching license was suspended for several years.

“I’ve been home nine years and I’m still fighting the Department of Education [DOE] for clearance… [I’m] juggling all these jobs now,” said Rumley who works eight part-time jobs because he still can’t find a full-time job. “Every time I would get clearance from… a full-time job [in education]… the DOE would say, ‘You know you’re incarcerated for this and we don’t feel comfortable giving you full-time clearance. So, this time I appealed it to the courts and hopefully it’ll be overturned.”

Rumley almost lost his apartment while being incarcerated as well.

“I was lucky that I have family that was there to support me and help me pay the rent when I was away… When you live in affordable housing… every two years you’re supposed to do what’s called this recertification… So, the year I was supposed to do my recertification was 2012 and management found out that I was incarcerated… They wanted to throw me out the building. So, my father had to get an attorney and fight for me to stay in the building. And we won that case too,” said Rumley. “Their lawyers were like, ‘He’s incarcerated. He shouldn’t be in the building. We don’t want any criminals.’ The judge was like, ‘The man is coming home in 2013 at the latest. Plus, he has an appeal which his lawyers feel very confident that he’s gonna win… So therefore, I’m granting Mr. Rumley the opportunity to certify.’”

Rumley is an advocate for prison reform. He works with the Alliance for Families for Justice and is involved in the prison ministry at his church.

“I made a promise, ‘God, you get me through this, I’ll make sure that when I’m out, I’m always going to be involved in community service,’” said Rumley who has been the president of the Covenant Avenue Baptist Church Prison Ministry in NYC for seven years.

“And I’m always going up to Albany. I was advocating for… the Fair Chance Act, the Clean Slate Act… also Ban the Box will allow people to not have to answer those questions on the questionnaire like ‘Have you been previously incarcerated?’… I went through it when I came home… I barely got a job in Modell’s because every time I applied for a position before that Ban the Box went into effect… in the end of 2014… I was asked… that question… And I would never get called back afterwards,” said Rumley. “That’s why I’m really big on advocacy for family criminal justice reform and those people that really are rehabilitated got to get a chance to start over.”

You can buy Rumley’s books on Amazon.com and at Sister’s Uptown Bookstore in Harlem.

Journalist Ms. Jones

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