I was recently in the law library getting copies of the federal lawsuit I prepared to challenge, among other thing, doctor’s decision denying my request for approval to form a prison chapter of my UFD organization. Which I use to positively organize, motivate, inspire, and educate young prisoners and to steer them away from gangs, drugs, and violence.
I was only able to make the copies I needed because of the donations of another prisoner I used to mentor 15 years ago. If not for him, I couldn’t afford these copies without going deeper into debt. I only make $14 every two weeks in prison wages, 40% of which was collected to pay off two court filing fees, totaling $855 for my last federal lawsuit and the pill in that case.
In that federal lawsuit I argued that juvenile and youthful offenders should have a constitutional right to rehabilitation. That lawsuit was meant to hold New York state accountable for placing youthful offenders in prison settings that corrupt and damages them, graduating them deeper into criminality. The science on this is clear, but the federal court have given New York state a pass. Essentially, they’re saying that correction department have no legal obligation to reform and rehabilitate prisoners before release- releasing them.
So, if one of us gets out and murders you, or robs you, because the correction department failed to implement effective rehabilitative treatment and re-entry programs, then that’s just tough. What good then are your tax dollars, if the correction department let’s go who it hasn’t reformed, or rehabilitated? The prison and parole systems in America are a joke and public safety is put at risk as a result. What I’m trying to do with UFD is a win-win for taxpayers and the many young prisoners whose lives UFD can turn around.
If the federal courts believe New York’s corrections department has no legal obligation to reform and rehabilitate prisoners, then what can be the justification for denying UFD? The opportunity to organize prisoners, especially young prisoners, to reform and rehabilitate ourselves and to pay our own way to a successful re-entry back into society. My new federal lawsuit seeks to answer that question. I’m on the front line in the effort to reform and rehabilitate young prisoners, especially Black and Hispanic ones who are disproportionately caught within the web of the criminal justice system.
If the correction department fails to reform and rehabilitate them, they’re not going back to white communities but back to communities of color where my nieces and nephews live. I’m seeing firsthand the devastating effects these super criminals produced in prison have on my community. These are young men who UFD could have saved, but the correction department refuses to allow it.
So, I’m taking them to court. But this is going to cost money I don’t have. The filing fee for my federal lawsuit alone will run me $350, for which 20% of the $6 a week prison wage I receive, will be collected. Along with the 20% already being collected toward the $505 I still owe for my previous federal appeal.
On top of that, there are costs for copies and postage I must pay as well. I need to get my typewriter fixed or replaced. I still need funding for my outreach and charity work among prisoners. I need books for them as well. Then there are my personal needs. I can hardly afford food, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and laundry detergent. So, I do without some of these things. My bed sheets right now are ripped, and I need new clothing and sneakers.
My friend, Brittany, has set up a GoFundMe page for me, but GoFundMe took it down, but hasn’t explained why. I myself can’t solicit money or services without the permission of the corrections department—the very entity I’m suing. So, you know how that’ll go. I can ask my family for help, but my family has never been that tight-knit or selfless. Plus, they’re struggling too.
But if several of my supporters were to help out, I could do a lot more. It doesn’t take much to help a prisoner, especially when many people chip in. I was informed Facebook has a fundraiser app that works with PayPal, so if GoFundMe won’t let Brittany run a fundraiser campaign on my behalf, then Facebook app is an option. There’s already a free Dontie Mitchell Facebook page up and running that Brittany is helping to manage.
Look, I’m just trying to make a difference. I want my life to mean something. If there’s anyone out there, moved to help by my story, you should message Brittany at my free Dontie Mitchell Facebook page, and tell her how you can help. Any small contribution would help, even if it’s only to share this commentary or to tell someone about my story. Every little bit counts.
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Thank you for listening. God bless.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.