Prison Radio
Dontie Mitchell

“A Big Let Down.”

On October 28, 2019, the first ever presidential town hall hosted by formerly incarcerated people was held at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. The historic site of the first modern prison in the United States, which closed in 1970. This event was a chance for democratic presidential candidates to speak with people directly impacted by the criminal justice system and to discuss their plans for reform.

But only three candidates showed up: Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Tom Steyer. I was surprised Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders didn’t show up. Aren’t they supposed to be the progressive candidates? To me, they had an obligation to be there. When it comes to criminal justice reform, it seems like Cory Booker stands out. Tom Steyer didn’t seem to have a clue. And Kamala Harris couldn’t really account for her white [inaudible] pass as a tough-on-crime prosecutor. Overall, the event was a big let down.

Many of the attendees left the event more convinced than ever that no real change will be made to the system by politicians. No surprise there. Until the public realizes not only the immorality of mass incarceration, but also its economic waste, and how it affects their pocketbooks. Then nothing much will get done. This is the reason current criminal justice reforms are watered down and focus only on nonviolent offenders. The public still feeds into this narrative of retribution and not forgiveness, understanding and rehabilitation. We live in a society that nurtures violence and people seem so surprised by it. That violence is nurtured by the hypocrisy and the qualities in this country that makes so many people feel alienated and voiceless.

The collective consciousness of our nation is apathetic to the plight of others. This is why some people can blame immigrants for stealing jobs or economic resources. Instead of opening up their hearts and asking how can we help improve conditions in their countries so they can live safely and healthy where they come from. Or how other people are insensitive to the abuses and mistreatment of prisoners in our own countries. While our politicians blast other countries for human rights violations. Our nation needs to do better.

This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as a Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctionial Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @FreeDontieMitchell. You can now send an email or video-gram through to me. Please share your questions and thoughts with me. Thank you for listening and God bless.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.