My name is Lamar Moore, but my nickname is Shone. I’m currently on my second trip in prison for aggravated robbery. Based on my experience, I strongly feel that there needs to be criminal justice and prison reform in Arkansas.
First, I want to tell you about the behavior of the corrections officers and administrative staff based on my first-hand experience. The officers, who are mostly women, often cuss us out about the simplest things.
I’ve been called stupid motherf- – – -r, dumbass and Black bastard. I was cussed at by a lieutenant once in the presence of the chief of security and a deputy warden, who both just stood there.
We have a grievance procedure, but no one follows it because the wardens don’t enforce them. During the pandemic, I had 10 grievances, but I could not get a single staff sergeant to sign them. On one occasion, I was told by a sergeant that the administration would believe her over me even if I wrote a grievance against her. I knew it was true.
In the lockup and segregation section of the prison, the inmates are neglected. When I was housed in lockup for five weeks, I only saw officers or sergeants come around during feeding and pill calls, even though they were supposed to make security rounds every 15 to 30 minutes.
Some of the inmates who were transferred in as new commits have been here for more than a month and were never issued sheets. Lots of them don’t have boxers because the prison clothing room department claims they don’t have any, even though the prison has a garment factory that makes pants, shirts, socks, towels, boxers and canvas shoes daily.
Many of these new items go to a storage room and sit for long periods of time. Class 1 inmates get the good clothes and other items while Class 4 inmates get turned away. When the warden is notified, we only get an institutional answer. We can’t get clothes, but they want us to work the “hoe squad,” where people have to go into the fields and chop grass each day.
Many inmates have active law cases and many are trying to get back in court. We are required by law to have access to a law library, but the prison has been quarantining inmates who caught the delta variant in the library. We have been told to put in requests for materials, but how can we know what we need without being allowed into the law library?
Arkansas is also one of eight states who make inmates do hard labor for free. We still have a hoe squad. We dig ditches and chop down trees with our bare hands. They say it’s voluntary, but if we choose not to go, we get disciplined.
Cummins Unit does not offer inmates with long sentences the opportunity to participate in rehabilitation programs. Treatment and other programs are not available to us. That cripples us from being able to better ourselves.
Many short-time inmates are refusing to enroll or stay in programs, while guys like me are begging for a chance. I get turned away or ignored.
I have tried to transfer from Cummins Unit. I have begged wardens, classification officers and chaplains to accept me in other prisons because I was seeking better opportunities, but no one listened.
Many of us only get worse with all the mental and physical abuse we endure. We rob people because we don’t have equal opportunities at jobs. I was denied work-release programs because I had two or more robbery counts.
Many of us will never have an equal chance unless we get justice and prison reform. White people run this state and keep us down, and our own Black people are more than happy to oppress us.
There’s no justice, it’s “just us.”
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.