Some mornings when I wake for breakfast chow at 3:00 or 3:30 here in the County Jail, I can’t help pondering the question of where they are able to find so many people with the same disposition; just dripping with contempt.
Even though it’s the same caliber people, and sometimes worse, in prison, there’s a little more … something … I don’t know, maybe stability or at least knowing. I know all the nattering nabobs look at people who are held as prisoners and feel no compassion whatsoever. There is a story behind every prisoner and there’s also a connectivity of sorts that links everyone who has experienced the absolute and incredible pangs of loneliness. You almost couldn’t get an emotion to be so complete as that of being alone in a room full of people.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to think that we could let people be completely without accountability. That’s just your basic universal law of cause and effect. But to propagate the dissent and frustration that some of these people have felt all their lives does nothing to better anyone involved. Not the victims, not the people who have broken the commands society puts on them, not the families who are convinced that they’ll feel better when justice is served, and certainly not the people who are led to believe they are carrying out a good and noble deed. Countless families’ lives are destroyed not by the act of one individual, but by their collective consciousness. A set of ideals so heavy with expectations that they are, for the most part, unobtainable.
The worst part of it is that those who have at their disposal, the ability to effect change, seem to be content with the status quo. ‘How do we turn this around?’ That question has plagued us for all time. What can we do to light the fire of personal accountability? Do we accept that paradigm that not everyone has the same station in this life? Are we so far into it that we can’t turn it around? What kind of cataclysmic event will be our eye opener? Is having the amount of people in prison that is unprecedented in the history of man not enough? Apparently we’re missing something. There are more advanced societies on this planet making incredible strides for the human condition. Norway has recognized that the penal system, as it was, was not working. Germany, same thing. So what makes them different from America other than they’ve taken steps to change? There seems to be a will to not continue to self-destruct. Can anyone not see where we are headed?
I won’t get all patriotic on you, but being part of the strongest society in history, we should be leading the charge to not only survive, but allow everyone the chance to flourish. What kind of cataclysmic event will it take? Looking back through history – slavery, women’s suffrage, Jim Crow, genocide and world wars haven’t done it.
I won’t claim to have all the answers, but I will ask the questions, and hopefully, that’s a starting point. As for my part, I pledge to have personal accountability and invite anyone to join me, whether you are in a prison or a palace, change starts with you.
Michael Henderson, Florida