This story is the fifth piece in the Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series dives deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children.
When I was asked to write something “personal” about being sentenced to a prison term of 52 to 80 years, and the time I have served thus far, I was torn. During the last 23 years of having to always chase after something, hide something and hold my ground against something or someone, I have always shied away from autobiographical ways of speaking and writing about this real-life nightmare. But I believe personal stories like mine are important because they give a human face to the pain and misery of imprisonment experienced by incarcerated people as a whole.
It’s a failure of both local and national media, as well as institutions of higher learning, that an essay such as this is even thought to be necessary. Our society has massively launched onto a path of caging and torturing an unprecedented number of men, women and children, and the people who are supposed to critique and shed light on this draconian practice have largely neglected to do so, at least in a way that is commensurate to the crisis.
From time to time there is reporting on some major problem of imprisonment, but in my opinion, the reporting rarely conveys the connection between the specific crises they describe and the root cause of imprisonment itself. For example, in relation to the US leading the world in imprisonment, many issues have been the subject of investigative inquiry, including the disproportionate number of imprisoned poor people; long-term consequences, such as the making of a permanent underclass; the expected cycle of imprisonment from generation to generation; the decline in births among groups that are overrepresented in…