Be it California or Mississippi, when news of suicides, murders or riots reaches any prison population the feeling is always the same: “damn”—if it’s spoken or not. Especially if you’ve been through it or witnessed these things.
Society might think “there goes those violent monsters acting up again.” What is rarely discussed is that we are a product of the society. Most of us incarcerated and are Americans, and America is filled with double standards (we’ll get to that later) and most of the time breeds intolerance.
Black people and others are still suffering under racism, and we don’t have to go back to slavery to see this. Black people can’t BBQ, sell water or lose cigarettes without the police being called. A Black man was even arrested for eating a sandwich at a San Francisco BART transit station platform. We can’t even sit in our own homes without being shot and killed.
Have we ever talked about collective trauma? It’s not just individuals who suffer. It’s whole communities. Our immigrant community is being detained, and kids are/have been separated from their parents—OK, more trauma. Our President even ordered the assassination of a Iranian general using violence in the name of stopping violence.
Have we been raised to be intolerant against any and everyone who is not like us (on both sides)? Has violence been shown as a way to solve our problems? Is this learned behavior?
We witnessed our President say that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and not get charged. Damn! That’s a criminal threat, or what we incarcerated call a “terrorist threat,” and people in here are doing three to five years, if not a life sentence, for a statement such as that.
During President Trump’s House impeachment trial started by the Democrats—more separation—Trump was alleged to have attempted to strong arm, bribe or leverage—or whatever a good word choice would be (quid pro quo)—to get the Ukrainian president to investigate his rival, excuse me, his possible political opponent, for his own advantage.
Once again, there are hundreds of thousands of people serving long sentences for attempting to do a crime. But what really was most interesting to those incarcerated was how the Republicans, Trump’s “homies” (supporters), kept touting that all the evidence against him was just hearsay. Wait, wait, wait—how many people are sitting in U.S. prisons and jails convicted on hearsay evidence? And I haven’t yet mentioned the venomous call to reveal the name of the whistleblower. Trump’s supporters came just short of calling the confidential informant a “snitch.”
When the smoke cleared Trump was impeached in the House (by his rivals) on “Abuse of Power” and “Obstruction of Justice.”
But, he was acquitted by the majority Republican Senate. Imagine that! a jury of one’s peers. I think most people incarcerated would have loved to have their friends, supporters or homies on their juries. It wouldn’t be hard to guess the outcome.
Now let’s talk about prison violence and reform. When people are sentenced to 800 plus years, what is expected? They have officially written their lives off and wonder what they have to live for or if they will ever see the streets again. Add to that, they are incarcerated in harsh and questionable conditions.