I just read an article yesterday that really blew me away. One of the things that I always hear, as most people, is how the various generations in this country are very different. I never understood this and why it is so important for people to hold strongly to those concepts that they identify the most with, within their generations. As apposed to seeking out the things that work and have been successful within all of these generations to make a better society. Well, yesterday I had one of those “aha” moments. One of those moments that spoke to my spirit and soul.
There is an article in The Sun magazine (July 2013) written by Katti Gray called, The Run-One Sentence, that spoke of the story of Eddie Ellis and his journey through a 25 year sentence and what he did with that time and how he lives now. I have never read anything about the prison experience and felt that I shared so much with the writer.
One of the things that really stuck out to me was the generational differences yet at the same time the similarities. It is almost like feeling stuck in a time capsule while doing this time, and to hear the story of an 86 year old man that did 25 years and went home shortly after I came to prison, i felt that it was me speaking in this article. The same frustrations, fears, apprehensions, concerns, zeal, motivation, insight, and desire to make things right were all the thing that we shared and had in common, similarities, yet we are generations apart.
So it leads me to believe that it is the experience that we have that provokes the way that we live out our values. It doesn’t matter what generation you come from it is the experiences that you have that define the way that you see the world and those in it. When I think about the state of low income neighborhoods and the conditions of these neighborhoods and its members it makes me think about how no matter the age or the era if the experience doesn’t change the people will not change. There are guys in my old neighborhood that are doing the same thing that they were doing 20 years ago when I cam to prison. The state of the people and the conditions are the same.
When I read of how Eddie felt when he had to check the young guy about the phone I understood what he meant and felt. I have had that happen to me before and it is always a battle between looking and being. In here it is not about being but looking the part. It is a fine line to walk.
When I am asked what makes me sad about this system I have to say that the lack of people that understand this system and what it takes to change to be a better person. There are so many lost souls behind these walls. Because we have been taught to shy away from those of other generations the youth are missing out on a lot. The answer to the experience lies with those that came before us. They are the ones that have experienced it and have the wisdom to deal with it.
One of the most important points that he made was the point about education being one of the main determining factors of reducing recidivism. I think that this is something that needs to be looked at and given consideration. One would be surprised by the outcry within the prison systems for programs that will make one productive upon ones return to society. For instance I was talking to a guy today who was sent back to prison from the halfway house. He was declared to have had escaped at a time he was at a government subsidized program taking an apprentice course test. So he was sent back to prison as a result of being late returning to the halfway house.
There are so many factors that weigh in on whether guys stay out once they are out. There are a lot things that are not working that need to be readdressed in order for guys to succeed. One of those things is education. There has to be an emphasis on education and an incentive for guys that succeed in that area. Not punishment.
I am at that place that Eddie was prior to his release and I could not be more thankful to read his story and find that I am not alone in what I see and have gone through. It is as if those of my generation can not understand me. I mean not may of them can say that they have 20 years of doing time under their belt. Not that it is something to be proud of but who can relate expect those that have done it.
I think that this is one of the most up-close and personal accounts that the civilian can get as it concerns the penal system and the dynamics that lead to mass incarceration and the social issues that cater to the perpetuation of recidivism. Also the challenges that men and women go through in order to obtain the things that they need to make them successful, education and realistic programs. I give this article two thumbs up and encourage all of my followers to find it, read it and build discussions around it. I am definitely interested to hear the opinions and questions of others.
- The Run-on Sentence: Eddie Elis On Life After Prison (http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/451/the_run_on_sentence)
- NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (centerfornuleadership.org)