No One is a Criminal

Hola mi gente,
As if you needed more proof that the war on drugs was just another way to lock up Blacks and Latinx and radicals, more and more key players at the center of the CIA-crack cocaine scandal continue to come forward.

On another note, I am disgusted by the faux outrage of so-called liberals whose silence during the brutal Obama years made Trump a reality. Today, they’re all outraged. Kiss my ass with that bullshit.

Seeing the Human

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Not too long ago, a high ranking correctional officer admonished me for missing a workshop at this facility. I took the day off. It seems that my workshop participants, thinking I had been replaced, expressed their disapproval so vehemently, they had to call in reinforcements. I facilitated workshops on Rikers Island, one of the most infamous penal colonies in the world at one of their most problematic facilities, Anne M Kross (“AMKC”). The captain asked me what was I did that created such loyalty. I just shrugged and said, “I treat them like with respect.”

Saying shit like that always gets me in trouble.

I considered it a compliment, especially considering that the NYC Dept. of Corrections (DOC) bureaucrats who run these programs had huge problems with how I facilitated my workshops. The greatest compliment, however, is whenever I run into a brother or sister on the outside and they come up to me to hug me. I remember being in an isolation ward and telling one the brothers there, “You don’t belong here.” He said he would come see me when he got released and he did. He’s now involved in a campaign to do away with the torture of solitary confinement.

Still, as I further reflected about my workshop participants’ “mutiny” I was reminded of the thing I do that perhaps others don’t: I refuse to see them as criminals. I see them first as human beings. I believe that all people, regardless of their criminal justice status, have the right, as we all do, to live with dignity and their humanity respected and valued.

At many immigrant rights rallies, one is confronted with the message, “No One is Illegal,” or “No One is a Criminal.” This is a great strategy — a strategy that prison reform and prison abolitionists should adopt. Once you see the human and not just the crime, then the opportunity for real change, for real justice, for human justice emerges.

I have seen and worked with many people who had committed murder, but I have never seen a murderer. I have seen many people who had stolen from others, but I have never seen a thief. And here’s the hardest one for me. I have even seen and worked with people who had committed terrible sex crimes, but I have never seen a sex offender. Throughout the years, I have evolved enough to realize than any one person is more than a crime.

It is irrational to define people by their worst act or acts. It denies the existence of all the other deeds they have committed, the many good or even noble, acts. I recognize those other deeds, the other, good aspects of their personalities. I see people who had done a crime, not criminals, or inmates, detainees, or cons, or animals.

When I began to see the people instead of just their crimes, they also saw the good parts of themselves. In giving respect, they respected me, and consequently, respected themselves. They began to have self-respect without denying their crime.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you most know by now that as a nation, The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet. We’re in the midst of a brutal social experiment in which we have enslaved black and brown people and poor people. We’re so hell-bent on retribution and punishment that we have lost sight of the humanity of our brothers and sisters and in the process, we have lost our souls.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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