Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Loud cheers erupted in San Quentin State Prison’s housing units when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter last April for the death of George Floyd. 

“That was the first time I ever rooted for the prosecution,” a voice screamed over the five tiers in my cellblock.

More cheers and celebrations were heard throughout the nation when the U.S. Congress and President Joe Biden signed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday commemorating the final end of slavery. 

But with all the joy and celebration, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system continues. 

Congress still has not passed the George Floyd Act that would ban police choke-holds, no-knock warrants and blanket qualified immunity for officers. There also continues to be no support for a bipartisan commission on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot where five people died, including police officers. 

What’s more, the New York Police Department (NYPD) last April marched a 70-pound police robotic dog through a Manhattan public housing complex.

According to The New York Times, NYPD was going to deploy the four-legged digital dog in hostage situations before a public backlash prompted the department to cancel the contract.

Boston Dynamics, the creator of the robots, said there were roughly 500 robotic dogs in the field worldwide.

I grew up watching RoboCop and Terminator in the 80s, and just like in the movies, these robotic dogs are remote-controlled by a faceless person with limitless data capacity and cameras for surveillance. The films did not end well. 

I find it interesting that these devices are being introduced into communities with poor people of color, where voices can be squashed.

Have we lost so much of our humanity that we have to be guarded by robotic dogs? 

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.

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Marcus "Wali" Henderson

Marcus "Wali" Henderson is an editorial associate for the Prison Journalism Project and the editor-in-chief of San Quentin News. Marcus has said he never thought he would find more to his life than just doing time. The day he arrived at San Quentin State Prison, his old cellmate asked him to help cover a baseball game in which the prisoners were playing a team from outside. When the cellmate told Marcus to interview these people, his mouth dried up, and he realized he hadn't talked with anybody besides prisoners and guards for more than 15 years. That was his introduction as a reporter.