Updated: Mar 26
I decided to write this article because I know it's something that anyone who is incarcerated fears. When those handcuffs goes on our wrist and those doors close behind us and we're surrounded by the walls and many unknowns blossom. The government hands out so much time, so much so that judges compete in the world book of Genius records for the most time given.
This is a sad fact, but it is true. They don't have to serve the time, and it's not all peaches and cream. Take for example during the covid pandemic, we were locked in our cells in a small room. We were denied phone calls, recreation, and basic hygiene. Many of these things we can manage without, because serving time teaches you these things. Serving time often teaches you how to harden your heart. Then when we come out society looks at us like there's something wrong with us. You're right, there is something wrong with us. Serving time is mental torture.
Not being able to get on the phone when I wanted to knowing that the numbers are going up and up and up with the death toll. Is someone I know within that list? What about my mother, what about my father, what about my sisters? For those who have children, this is a major concern for them as well. We do not know, we do not get messages, because we're not allowed to use the computer at that time either.
Then they started letting us get 5 minute phone calls. This is when I learned my elderly father was not feeling well. What did he do? He hid this severity from me. Like so many of our loved ones, they don't want to add more to our burden. Oh how we love our loved ones so. No one else in my family told me how severe it really was either. The mail was long and few in between. This wasn't because people were not writing letters, it was because we just were not receiving them. There was such a long back log.
One day while laying on my bed a staff member came to my cell, and asked me to step out. It was a little odd, because not many people were being removed. I did not think too much about it, because she had a small stack of papers in her hand. She took me in the back and her body language told me something was not right. My mind still would not go to where it was soon to go. She tells me that my father has just passed away. My heart sinks, my body feels weak, I'm not even sure if I'm in control anymore. She stands at a distance watching me. She is unsure what I will do as well. My eyes begin to water up even as they do to this day when I tell the story.
She calls my sister and she begins to speak about the funeral arrangements. This is what they're worried about is the funeral arrangements? What will we do with his vehicles, his cash, and his property? Wait, my mind is not even processing this. I'm still stuck on the fact that you just told me my dad has passed away. My mind does not want to accept this as being true. Although I would be angry I would be happier if this was a sick joke, but unfortunately it's not.
Once I finished, I leave from the back, and I see my brother and best friend Hamzah sitting at the table. We have a few minutes out of our cell. He looks at me, but I do not want to look at him. How do I control myself? How do I handle myself? I'm about to lose myself! It's okay you can cry I tell myself but my inner self fights it because I am in prison. So I look at him, and I tell him what I had just learned. I do not stop nor do I pause my steps, but rather I continue back to my cell rather than take my time out.
Once I enter my cell I close the door. I let myself go, I left the tears flow. I begin to talk to God, and I say all praises and thanks are due to you for the things that I understand and for the things I do not understand. You have given and you have taken away. I then begin to head to the sink to wash my face when Hamzah enters the cell. He does not know what I will do, but he knows that I have had a history of suicidal ideation and attempts. For the love and concern he came to check on me. A sign of compassion, but the Court's label him as unfit for society. Why? Because he is a non-violent drug offender. The courts gave him 17 years like he has no compassion, but that is not true. Like so many others the sentences too harsh and the conditions are too harsh. All because he has a history and refused to snitch.
Do you know what makes this so much worse? Once I learned that my father was ill I had to wait a week before I could call him. Then I had to hope that when they allowed me to have that 5 minute phone call he would answer. If not then I had to wait another week to try again. Where is the compassion in that? What about the so many others that did not even get told that they had a family member pass away? This is a fear that we all have being incarcerated. That is losing the ones that we love and care about the most but most of all not being able to see them, spend time with them, to tend to the services.
I tell you this story because mine's not unique. Even the Coronavirus does not make the situation unique. This is very real in the mental trauma that this has on us is more than words can ever properly explain. I asked you to try, just try to imagine yourself in a similar situation. You can't get in your car to go visit. You can't pick up a phone and call. You can turn on the computer and see them that way. There's nothing that you can do.
Still this day no chaplain and no psychologist ever spoke to me about my father passing away. The sad thing, that is not abnormal either. Is this humane? Is this just? Is this what you want from your government? Yes we committed crimes, and yes we deserve to be punished for our crimes, but whatever happened to the sentence and the conditions matching the crime? Have you ever wondered why this suicide rate is so high in prison? It's not because of conditions are so lovely and that I leave You to ponder on. Thank you for reading, thank you for listening.
Written by Mika'eel
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