This past week I was reminded of a couple things. Our justice system is designed to benefit some and punish others It goes after the most vulnerable, and it effects our society past the time served. I use to see the system as a just and equal system. I grew up thinking that those that ended up in prison were the worst of the worst.
That’s the idea we are sold.
That anyone behind bars deserves to be punished, deserve for their identities to be taken away, and ultimately forgotten.
However, after My time in jail I understood that it is not how they sell it to us. But part of me felt that what happened to me was still just a difficult moment that only happened to a unfortunate few.
This week was a reminder that it is not. That the justice system is flawed. As I watched in horror how children are being seperated from their parents and placed in cages, I was outraged. I couldn’t believe that our leadership was allowing this to happen! How? Are we blind? If your child is ripped from your arms right now, placed in cages what would that be called? Kidnapping! I watch as the department of Immigration and the leadership hide behind the fact that these innocent people have come to the country as refugees. As if that would justify the inhumane treatment.
Then I was reminded of the 1989 Central Park case. Where children! Let me say that again, children! Were wrongfully accused of a crime they did not commit! They were forced to ”confess” they committed a crime they were too young to even understa. Before you say ” well, if they didn’t do it, why did they say they did?” put yourself in the shoes of a 15/16 year old. You are scared, tiered, hungry, and confused. Police officers are telling you that if you tell on another boy you get to go home. What would you do? It’s clear now the horrors that were done to incriminate these children were beyond Illegal. The young men served 7-13 years in prison before they were exonerated!
The more I am exposed to these stories ,that we sometimes don’t care to see, the more I realize that this is not a few unfortunate cases. For example, the story I heard on a panel of a young man in California who was hunted in his neighborhood simply because he looked like any Latino. He served three years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The astonishing thing is that the man who actually committed the crime was found but because the justice system had built a case so strong against the wrong man they couldn’t go after the actual criminal. Is that just? I don’t think so.
They have been locking up people blindly all for the sake of closing a case and hiding behind ”serving justice”. Let’s not forget the fact that the people that benefit from all this monstrosity is the private contractors. It’s a business to have people in prison. It’s a business to get people in the door and to keep them there. Imagine that! You have on one end prosecutors trying to close cases as quickly as possible and on the other contractors trying to make money from people in prison. Where is the incentive to actually pursue justice? There isn’t
The problem is that we don’t see the consequences of this system to the mental health of the victims of it and how that truly effects our society in the long term. The children, young adults, and the wrongfully incarcerated will never be the same and will live with a trauma that we have yet to acknowledged.
There are moments when I get this smell, Especially when I’m in hospitals, that remind me of jail. I cringe and I always look down at my clothes to make sure I am not wearing jail attire. Everytime I need to speak in public my mouth shivers so bad I bite my tongue and lock my jaw. I got that from the countless court appearances after my time in jail. What happened to me led to events that almost made me take my life! And I’m not the only one.
As I saw the body language of the young man in the panel it felt like looking in the mirror many years ago. I asked him if he resented the system, he said that what happened to him he will always have to carry with him. I knew exactly what he meant.
If you watch the interview with Oprah of the exonerated 5, you will see the consequences of the system. Families were broken, some of them are broken themselves. So much pain and they must live with this for the rest of their lives.
We must see that what is being done now to these children and their parents is traumatic, its inhumane, and it’s abuse. That our system is crippling the most vulnerable. That they are punishing the innocent three times. First by wrongfully incarcerating them, then by keeping them imprisoned, then by taking their ability to rebuild. Taking away rights, making it difficult for them to incorporate themselves to society hinders them and it hinders us all as a society. We must stop allowing these inhumane treatments. You can help by showing up and speaking up at the polls. You can also help by donating to the following nonprofits. Let’s show up for those that need us the most because it effects us all! Remember, we can make a difference.
How to help
ACLU ( American Civil Liberties Union) Is a nonprofit organization that was built to protect the individual rights of everyone.
Immigrant Justice Corps Is a fellowship program that help people looking to become citizens or are fighting deportation.
Innocence Project Is an organization that fights to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
United We Dream Is a youth led organization that provides the support for young people regardless of their legal status. It empowers them to share their voice and be heard. They fight for immigrant rights.
Homeboy Industries Is an organization that helps marganilized communities sharing the message that incarceration is not the answer. They work with communities to help break cycles of poverty, violence and recidivism.