I just got finished watching the TV show We The People. This particular episode moved me deeply because it dealt with the question of bail and redemption. Rodney was being held on a 100,000 dollar bond for selling cigarettes illegally. All he needed was someone to sign the bond for him and he’d be released, but nobody would risk it. When his aunt reconsider her decision not to sign, and she did, Rodney had taken his own life while locked up, having never known he was about to be released.
On April 22nd, 2019, United States Supreme Court denied my petition for a writ of certiorari, thus declining to extend a constitutional right to rehabilitation for juvenile and youthful offenders who end up in prison, or in prison-like facilities, that make them worse. So, although the Supreme Court has ruled a state must afford juvenile offenders a meaningful opportunity to obtain relief, based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation, the state is not required to help those offenders to mature and to rehabilitate themselves. I mentioned the episode of We The People, along with the Supreme Court’s decision to deny my petition, because of the hypocrisy they reveal about our criminal justice system.
But what is justice? Justice is defined as conformity to truth, fact or reason. It’s the quality of being just, impartial, or fair. But tell me, what’s just, or fair, keeping Kalief Browder locked up for three years, 18 months of which he spent in solitary confinement, for a crime he didn’t commit? Tell me what is just, or fair, keeping me incarcerated, after 22 years, over half my life, for crimes I committed as a child in which I didn’t hurt, harm, or injury anyone? Tell me what is just or fair, when DOCS denied my request for approval to form a prison chapter of my UFD organization, that helps young prisoners reform and rehabilitate themselves? Tell me what is just, or fair, when the police can get away with murdering innocent people, particularly Black and Brown people?
But I get it now. What’s fair or just in this country is relative to the amount of wealth and power you have. It’s not about principle or what’s right. It’s about who has the money to shape public opinion. The Black, Brown, and poor prisoners who are scapegoated by this evil system certainly don’t have the money or influence to do that. So, we get shitted on. And so-called criminal justice reform advocates certainly aren’t going to risk too much for us either. So, not much gets done for us.
I get it now. When the Supreme court denied my petition, when DOCS denied my UFD proposal, when people I thought will help me make false promises to me, when others doubt me, I don’t cry and give up. I go harder. Why? Because I live by my principles. Our society is in need of a rude awakening. Our lives in this country are so superficial because so many of us are disconnected from our humanity. Truth is a principle: if we live by it, we would dismantle the existing prison system in America and completely restructure our judicial system, which caters more to politics and money than to truth and justice.
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook @freeDontieMitchell. Thank you for listening and God bless.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.