Prison Radio
Sergio Hyland

Hey everybody, it’s Uptown Serg. And I just want to start by thanking everybody for all of the love and support that you were sending my way as I sat in the prison infirmary suffering from COVID-19. It was an experience that I’m grateful to have survived. Also, it was and continues to be an experience that has worked to sharpen my perspective on what prisoners are really up against on the inside.

So I’m still recovering physically. COVID-19 has left me with many invisible scars as I had no choice, but to sit back and watch several of my elders die in a prison cell or an infirmary bed or in a hospital room. Often compare life in prison to life in the ghetto, in both cases, we wake up knowing that today could be our last on Earth.

It’s a sad conclusion to accept, but accept it, we do. Especially because we’d likely believe that death is inevitable and it’s the same in prison, but what’s unacceptable is when we face a certain death on the inside, knowing that it was preventable, that’s what’s taking place inside of Pennsylvania prisons as we speak.

The center for disease control and prevention has set clear guidelines for preventing the spread of this deadly disease. However, secretary of corrections, Westland, a Republican and staunch supporter of Donald Trump, has followed in Trump’s footsteps and completely disregarded these critical life saving measureshe continues to authorize mass transfers. Hundreds of prisoners are crammed onto crowded buses and forcibly transported across the state. Not surprisingly each time that one of those buses has landed here at SCI Chester, a COVID-19 outbreak wasn’t far behind.

What does this say about a person who has no regard for human life and dignity? What does this say about a person who recklessly endangers another human being for the sake of accumulating capital? These are questions that mainstream media often asks when attempting to vilify poor Black or Brown person in court. I wonder where that same mainstream media is when it’s time to criticize the wealthy.

When I arrived at SCI Chester, I admit that I was amazed at the opportunities that prisoners were afforded here. I had significant interactions with the administration which caused me to believe that I had finally met a group of prison officials who actually cared about prisoners. However, as I lay in a prison infirmary with low oxygen levels and in excruciating pain, I began to question everything I once believed about the people who run these institutions. After I began to speak out publicly in my articles or social media and over the radio, I was promptly notified that all of my correspondence was now being monitored. I was accused of smiling in the administration’s face while talking about them, like a dog behind their backs.

Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Everybody who knows me understands that I will speak out against injustice regardless of who those injustices are perpetrated by. My life is based upon the firm belief that a man shouldn’t do what he can, he should do what he must, regardless of consequences and repercussions.

So when it comes to speaking with two tongues, I’ll leave that to politicians and prison officials. Nobody is above criticism and I have the right to be upset about what’s taking place in here. Several of the men who either died or gotten sick are elder men who helped raise me from the young irresponsible boy who I once was into the leader, mentor and man who I am today. How am I expected to feel when I see them suffer all the while, knowing that their suffering and death could have been prevented.

I sit in a dark, cold cell, wondering why I’m still alive and if I’ll be alive much longer. That is a daunting reality for any living creatures to have to experience.

I think about my heroes, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and I wonder what would they do if they were in my position? I think the answer is simple. They wouldn’t do what they can, they’d do what they must. I cannot sit idle as people continue to die. And as officials continue to sweep it under the rug.

I know that I’ll be a target and yes, that does worry me, but it will never stop. I may lose my life behind these walls. And if that happens, I refuse to let the oppressors define me. And if they choose to retaliate against me, that says just as much about their lives as it does my truth.

Governor Tom Wolf, Secretary of Correction John Wessel, and any other person who allowed these deaths to occur should be criminally prosecuted just as you or I would, if we caused the death of another human being.

I want all of you to remember these words, remember this period in time, remember the pain, the suffering, and death, but most of all, remember that it isn’t good enough to do what you can, you have to do what you must, especially now.

Don’t support prisoners rights, support human rights.

Thank you. I’m Uptown Serg. And you can follow me on Instagram, @uptownserg.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.