Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lessons learned from Prison

Last month I had the opportunity to volunteer in a Prison to be part of a book discussion and a poetry workshop with few inmates and a group of people from my school. It was an eye opening experience to say the least. I wrote this poem the day we were leaving the prison where I got to know some of the inmates and to an extent through their poems know their stories also experience the prejudice attitudes of correctional officers there..

Set my foot in the prison for the first time
With a mind that was willing to give and gain knowledge
To discuss and embrace different ideas
Only to realize hours later
That inmates were the worst in our society
And that knowledge could only be given and gained from those willing to learn
And not those who placed fear in our heart and minds
They said, these were vicious criminals who committed horrendous crimes
So, they deserved to be locked up.
Keep your distance, they said.
Do not be manipulated, they advised.
Fear they engraved in our hearts.
Walked in the book discussion with preconceived notions
Assuming the class would get disrupted in 45 minutes
Hours into the book discussion and nothing has happened
Was I dreaming?
Or were these animals enjoying Watsons go to Birmingham 1963?
Hold on, did I just refer to them as animals?
Reasons are certainly attached to their presences here
But were they really animals or people who made bad choices
History has always shown when a group of people are they majority in anything – then expect a foul play.
Media has often portrayed Black men as vultures who prey on others
Just as they portray all Muslim men as terrorist
But why has the media failed to show images of innocent criminals
Guys who are caught and sentenced to decades only to be released after new evidence emerges finding them not guilty
Or men like Jerrmy who were caught at 14 and still in prison at 33
Why must teen crime deserve an adult sentence?
Why an equal crime does not get an equal punishment when skin color is different.
Why must inmates work 8 hours a day everyday and only earn .95 cents as their wage?
I know,
You might be thinking I am playing the race card
And making this whole thing seem like black vs. white
But ponder and contemplate
Upon the jim crow laws
Segregation policies
And compare that to modern day America
Where Blacks and Afro-Latinos are targeted
Mentally enslaved
And labeled criminals
Even before they are legally able to vote
Where no child left behind policy really means no white child left behind
To ensure the education of every kid but that of a black kid is funded properly
Where more than 50% of inmates are more than likely to go back to prison
Where society is build to bring the downfall of Black men
Where the government would rather fund abortion centers
Then invest in the education of inner city kids
With the world against them
And no one to hire them
And everyone quick to judge them
And no help from their government
Born into poverty with a black badge wrapped around their skin
They take the path of destruction
Where colors like red and blue make difference
Where the streets luring you with its lust
But vomits you out instantly when trouble emerges
Blinded by ignorance
Driven by desperation
They land in jail
But just as you wouldn’t be able to clap with one hand
Remember, we live in times where war on drugs
And, War on terrorism
Really mean government’s way of terrorizing people.

-Halima Ahmed
Copyright © 2010

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