Prisoner's Daughter Writes on Devastating Effects of Mass Incarceration

April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The following essay was written by the daughter of a prisoner who included it in a letter he sent to the Revolutionary Prisoners Literature Fund (PRLF). (See the letter, which is on the question of abortion, at "Defending the Right to Abortion, and Transforming People for Revolution".)

When those steel bars close, how would you feel? Your father gone all your life, how would you feel? A judge locking up your freedom and throwing away the key, how would you feel? Today I want to address the subject of black men incarcerated for long periods of time, and how I believe it's unfair that colored men are not given the opportunity to show that they are able to function properly in society after serving portions of their sentence.

My father has been incarcerated for over 14 years, remember I'm only 14 years of age and will be 15 on august, 19. This means I've never been able to go out and get ice cream when I was a little girl, or him being able to see me graduate the fifth grade, or even little things like him fighting the hairy, scary monsters under my bed. Now I'm not stating that he didn't commit the crime he was accused of, but I'm stating that he has learned from his mistakes. He has gotten his GED in there and is working on getting an degree for law. He was just caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to take up for his brother and now is charged for attempted murder, facing 40 years do 20 years.

My father is proud that I even considered to address this issue because although mass incarceration affects the people in our community the most, many of the men that is incarcerated either don't have the courage or they are ashamed of discussing how this system affects their lives. Of the 2.4 million people who are incarcerated in the prisons here in the United States of America "the land of the free", more than 50% of the prison population is of color. Today there are more black men in prison than there are were in slavery during the time of the Ceases Review taken in the late 1800's. As of June 2001, there were nearly 20,000 more black men in the Illinois State prison system than in the public universities.

In the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness Author Michelle Alexander make the connections and shows how the American legal system uses mass incarceration as a continuation of slavery and the Old Jim Crow South and means of controlling people of color. She demonstrated in detail how by labeling portions as reduced them to the positions as a subhuman. In society and by doing so it strips them of their rights and privileges, for example: During the time of slavery black people were considered to be only 3/5 of a human being, and the law at that time stated that "a black person was pound to respect" [Father adds in margin: "She was trying to discuss the 3/5 clause. The Black man was considered to be Subhuman and He HAD NO Rights that a white person was Bound to RESPECT."] Black people could not vote, own land, or work and earn wages equal to white people. Today it is legal to exclude black people from voting, housing, and from the opportunity to work if they are labeled as criminals or ex-felons (an ex-felon is anyone with a criminal record rather they been in prison or not).

When my father is finally released from prison I will have to help him, and will definitely need my love and support in the real world. When those steel bars close, how would you feel? When your father is gone all of your life, how would you feel? A judge locking away your freedom and throwing away the key, how would you feel? I believe us students shouldn't judge a book by its cover. You can judge him by his actions because yes he has committed a crime but he also has achieved many goals, and is a great father and human being!

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