I am a major proponent of taking responsibility.
As a result, I used to believe that, as an outcome of our own actions, all prisoners — myself included — deserve to be in prison, notwithstanding the systemic racism of a criminal justice system, which criminalizes poverty and targets minorities.
Since childhood, we are taught that minorities’ chances of integration are greatly diminished once one develops criminal records. We are taught that there are people of privilege looking for any excuse to deny a minority comparable privileges. I wrongly thought that since we are aware of this reality at an early age, we should deprive ourselves of anything resembling a legitimate excuse for the current plights of our own informed choices.
However, I did not consider the fact that there were — and are — many volitional acts continually carried out by people who will never don a pair of handcuffs, face a prejudiced jury or serve a day in prison. They are the self-righteous perpetrators of crimes against humanity who fail to take responsibility or even acknowledge wrongdoing.
Amid the COVID-19 viral pandemic, where sanitation and social distancing are new norms, jails and prisons corral prisoners together in close-quarters under unsanitary conditions. Despite lacking caustics and routine cleaning supplies, prisoners are confined indoors, denied recreation and looked on with indifference. And with all the responsibility I take for my non-homicidal, though violent criminal actions, I can proudly and unambiguously say that I do not deserve this.
My current question is: When is enough, enough? In prison, people attend more Bible studies than ever before. People take responsibility for their actions and vow to themselves and loved ones never to engage in the same decision making (or lack thereof) that led them to prison. But when will this unrelenting system serve to meet society’s demands at large as opposed to those of a select few? This global pandemic should serve as a moral fulcrum that applies the counterbalancing weight of love and compassion and raises human life value.
Or is it the more important agenda of ridding the nation of undeniable felonious mistake makers using de facto death sentences that take precedence?
Society needs rehabilitated fathers, mothers and laborers. When a nation’s penal practices become deadly, enough should be enough. Somebody tell somebody to ask somebody to beg somebody to plead with somebody to allow somebody to permit somebody to authorize somebody to allow millions of imprisoned individual units of society — people — freedom. Please.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” so please show these “geese” compassion, knowing that it is altruistically and mutually beneficial for all of humanity. Until next time.
Robert Roosevelt Miller II
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.