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Every time I turn on the news all I hear about is Black Lives Matter, systematic racism and criminal reform. The entire world is marching, protesting, and pleading for the United States of America to end the oppression of the African-American race. Here is my question: if the Black and Brown races make up the minority of the country, then how do we make up the majority of the prison population?

Say you make a salad, and you put one crouton in it, but every bite you take, you get a mouthful of croutons. That’s impossible, right? So how is it possible that all the jails in the USA are mostly filled with Black and Brown people? Weird, isn’t it?

Here is a true story: My trial judge got removed from several criminal defendants’ cases for giving out too much time, and for being prejudiced and biased. The Superior Court told her to fix these sentences; she refused, belittled the defendant’s attorney, and gave out the same sentences. The Superior Court removed her, and before they could sanction her, she resigned. I filed an appeal for judicial misconduct. I followed all the rules, but my appeal still got denied, because I did not argue it when it happened. But what are the rules for if they are not followed? Is this what people are talking about when they talk about criminal reform? I hope so, but what’s the first step to fix a broken system?

I spent seven hundred and thirty days in county jail in Pennsylvania. After I was convicted, I was sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and I have been here for 5,840 days and counting. The Department of Corrections — ha! What are they correcting? The DOC doesn’t think anything is broken. They’re making cash money and keeping criminals off of the streets. The longer the sentence, the more money they make. A criminal reform platform could possibly put a dent in their pockets. But what’s more important, making money by being dishonest, or having a solid character? When the lights are on, everyone is going to say it’s more important to have a solid character.

So let’s get to it. Who’s in charge of this criminal reform? Is a round-table discussion going to happen? As long as I have been here, I have yet to see anyone in a position of power be held accountable for any inappropriate behavior.

Think of it this way: Say you have a dog. He has a habit of chewing on couch cushions. You have been taking him to a trainer for ten years to break him out of that habit. For 10 years you’ve been paying this trainer. Don’t you think somewhere along the line you might think, “This trainer isn’t getting the job done”?

Now, think about this: A human being broke the law as a kid and killed someone. He got sentenced to the Department of Corrections and a life sentence. The Supreme Court says that sentence is illegal; they say, “Let’s give the juveniles a second shot at life, considering they are in the Department of Corrections, a state correctional institute.” A judge re-sentences him to 65 years to life. He committed a dreadful act, but this is America, land of second chances, and now he’s eligible for parole — when he’s in his 70s. Don’t you think somewhere along the line, the Department of Corrections or the court system isn’t getting the job done?

I’m humbly asking everyone who is reading this to let me know what is the first thing that we have to do to actually accomplish criminal reform. We know what the problem is; now it’s time for solutions. From the inside, I want to fix this broken cycle, and whoever wants to help, let’s start brainstorming and put some solid ideas together.

 
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.

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Robert Anthony

Robert Anthony is a Muslim writer who was incarcerated in a Pennsylvania prison since he was 20 years old. Realizing that he has more time behind him than in front of him, he wanted to share his thoughts with the world.