Written August 23, 2011
I first of all want to say that this, what you all are doing, is long overdue and needed if we are ever going to change the direction of this unjust system. I know that for a lot of you the idea of resisting and speaking truth to power is instinctive, and we have to figure out a way to inject this spirit into more people, especially those whose lives aren’t directly affected by the growing crisis of mass incarceration and the use of solitary confinement as a means of torture and punishment.
One of the ways in which things have been allowed to get to this point is because normal, everyday citizens have been sold the “tough on crime” rhetoric preached by politicians who have a desire to be elected to office. However, what is going on here, inside these places, has gone far beyond the idea of making the community safe.
People are being tortured inside these places, forced to undergo conditions that that no human being should be asked to endure. And, yes, I’m aware that criminals are viewed in a negative light, but what I would ask you all to consider is just how one becomes a criminal in this society.
We live in a country where the wealthiest 1 percent own a third of the wealth. Think about that. Think about all the factories that have been closed down and replaced by prisons.
Think about all the jobs that have been sent overseas, about the recent economic crisis that resulted in the banks being bailed out while normal, everyday citizens were left to fend for themselves. And, when thinking about these things, think about the causes instead of focusing on the effects, as those in power always insist that we do.
If you look at things from the bottom up, you’ll see that crime is a reaction to the criminal accumulation of wealth perpetrated by the rich against the poor. Indeed, there are no rich people inside these places.
The guards whose “job” it is to enforce the brutal policies of those in power are poor. They come to work mad and disillusioned about their worth and place in a society that cares more about profits than people. And to work out their confused frustrations, they are allowed to torture us.
Isn’t that how it always is: poor people inflicting pain on other poor people. When are we going to stop this madness and issue a collective indictment against those who profit from our collective pain and say, in the words of Frantz Fanon in “Black Skin, White Masks”:
“And if, apparently, you succeed in keeping yourself unsullied, it is because others dirty themselves in your place. You hire thugs, and, balancing the accounts, it is you who are the real criminals: for without you, without your blind indifference, such men could never carry out deeds that damn you as much as they shame those men.”
I send these few words from Ohio’s death row, from inside the belly of the beast called the Prison Industrial Complex. It is my hope that something I have said resonates and takes root. We need your help. People are dying who could be saved.