More than a “perch”…


Around 6:00 am today I was looking out my window again/still, and a dove landed on the sill. We exchanged looks and then continued on with our business. Soon after, the mate landed next to the first. I put it that way because I have no idea which was male or female. But the point is there are alot of birds around this prison besides doves-blackbirds, sparrows, seagulls, hawks, crows, and I even saw a pelican one day.
This a wetland area and I saw on the news that they have a sanctuary near here. In fact the birds have adapted to the presence of the prison: they know when it is meal times and where we exit the chow hall. When we come out the birds are everywhere, waiting for there “issue”-(issue is part of the prison lexicon, meaning what you are supposed to get-clothing, food, medical etc. “I just want my issue”).

It is against the rules to bring food out, but people manage and the birds are fat and sassy around here. They even know when the trash bags are brought out and scavenge them before the trash carts come through. It is like the prison is an intrusion in their habitat, but there is nothing they can do about it so they do the best they can.

That is what happens in the community and the country as a whole: A prison, or prisons are all over the landscape, and people block out it’s existence or adapt to it. That is what I did. But that changes when you come here or have a family member or friend come to prison. Then your whole perception of the Criminal Justice System changes. Then you can’t block it out anymore, when you or someone you know becomes one of the almost 3 million prisoners in this country.

What I don’t understand is this: With 3 million prisoners now, (and no telling how many who have been released) the math is not too hard. Every prisoner had 2 parents-that is 6 million people who have empathy or concern about the unprecedented number of prisoners in this country. If you factor in 1 child per prisoner, that is 7 million. Siblings? Aunts? Uncles? Friends?

Pretty soon we are up to 20 million or more people effected by this phenomenon, 25% of the worlds prisoners are in this country. Why haven’t, or maybe they have, the politicians gone after all these potential votes?
Aren’t all the facts, numbers and taxpayer money wasted, enough to convince them that the “Willie Horton” stigma is no longer a viable excuse ? That we can’t “build our way out of this problem” with more prisons?
Shared with permission by Gary Settle.
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