Never judge the level of water in the sea without truly knowing the depth of it. This is a metaphor that comes to life behind these bars. Not all of us are monsters. Not all of us deserve to sit behind these steel gates for a lifetime.
These days, it feels like the justice system is a predator that treats us like prey, not because of guilt, but because life is the most vulnerable and the easiest for the system to digest.
Some who may snarl and say, “Oh, he/she is guilty,” without looking into the claims of innocence, or the overly harsh sentences that don’t fit the crime.
Race certainly plays a part, but it isn’t the ultimate problem or reason. The bigger reason is that there is no integrity behind the rules in a system that is supposed to be fair and just.
Innocent until proven guilty? Instead, the rules are manipulated, so people are treated like they were guilty from the beginning. Some might say, “You did the crime, you do your time.” But a lot of those inside have done more than their fair share of time buried in the belly of the beast, voiceless, unless they are blessed enough to have an outlet and a strong family foundation.
Most people behind these gates never had the financial means to retain a strong defense lawyer that is not a part of the system. If you can’t afford to pay for an attorney, you’re given a “public pretender.”
Very seldom do you find one that tries to get you a fair judgement or to expose the crookedness of the system or the flaws of your sentence. Instead, they work to get a plea deal or, if you’re too stubborn to take it, they will work half-heartedly to represent you in the courtroom.
This isn’t to say that we are all innocent here, but a system should have more integrity and be more humane to everyone from those who are guilty to those who are innocent as well as to bystanders.
There are innocent souls that reside in this hell, and even among those who were guilty of their crimes, some of us deserve another chance.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.