(From tnsocialjustice.wordpress.com) Tennessee is drawing wide attention for its policies on the death penalty. Less well known is how barbaric our sentencing laws are in general. For instance in Tennessee, all penalties for First Degree Murder, even for juveniles sentenced as adults, are equivalent to a death sentence, whether a social death sentence or a physical … Continue reading 51 YEARS: THE NEW LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." - Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
I am an inmate in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). For a long time, I was also a computer programmer. The sad fact is, because I am a prisoner, the State of Tennessee is afraid of me. They have actively impeded my education, and if they recognized the level of skill I actually have, they would ensure that I never touch a computer again and ship me to one of the most violent prisons to languish. I have been threatened with just that.
My pebble was a theft, then a robbery My hypocrisy started the ripples of victimization Behavior re-calibration minus criminal rehabilitation By then, it’s too late For heaven’s sake Prep school prepared me to think critically Apply physics to the streets and chemistry To drug dealing Biologically speaking I was bred for prison living Mis-educated misogyny Mired in complacency How can the VICTIMS be restored when the STATE stands as the witness? How can PRISONERS show their humanity when numbers replace stories and pictures? The system stifles spirits, so I scribe my legacy
I know what community is. Many people in our society live in near isolation in their day-to-day lives. They have family; they know a few people at work; they attend social functions such as football games. But their sense of community is often weak, if it exists at all. A feeling of isolation even from one's nearest neighbors is all too common.
Momma was sobbing as she told me that my sister was dead. I sat in the Chaplain's office in a daze. She was murdered while her daughter was in her lap. I was twenty-eight years old, and I had been in prison for a decade. The perpetrator received a six-year sentence, which he expired in less than thirty-eight months. My family was divided over this travesty of injustice, and some of my brothers contemplated revenge. It was the strangest feeling I had experienced in all of my years as a young adult. I was housed at one of the most violent prisons in the State of Tennessee, and I had become a victim of crime.
I was a juvenile when I committed a heinous murder. A "jury of my peers" decided I should spend the rest of my life in prison. They weren't a bunch of head-banging teenagers but middle-aged and elderly men and women.
Forgiveness is a funny thing. It is easy to suggest that someone forgive someone else. However, when you or someone you love has been wronged, forgiveness is a harder pill to swallow. For a family to forgive you when you have committed a horrific act on their kin is an amazing act of love and generosity. This is the story I wish to share with you.
My hope is that in this series of personal blogs I can challenge people who say they are of the Christian faith. I want to challenge Christians who approve of our Tennessee legislature passing laws that demonize, ostracize, and oppress offenders of the law when a majority of these legislators also say they are Christian. These laws lock up the socially weak for ridiculous amounts of time without mercy, without help, and without any real chance for redemption.
In addition to keeping offenders confined, the walls and the policies of prisons are designed to keep outsiders out as well. Why? Why are the voices of prisoners suppressed? When prisoners speak out through the internet or other forms of media, it is common to hear these objections: “Those men are criminals and they deserve to be locked away in silence forever! How dare they speak about their crimes? How dare they complain? Do they want our sympathy? We won’t give it! Do they want to glorify their sins and keep on harming their victims even after we have banished them? Let them rot forever!" We hear this and weep.