Prison Radio
Kenneth Hartman

Sometimes, after 36 years imprisoned, the view from in here is shrouded in mists of confusion and despair.

Violence and death, repression and resistance, and the growing recognition there are fundamental issues still unresolved after centuries of struggle–all of these cloud the picture of the world I left behind.

Faces shift in and out of focus, distorted by rage and sadness, crimson-tinged, tears streaming down. I wonder at the progress assumed to have been made; I wonder at the deafness that only hears selected parts of the rising chorus.

From in here the story of what’s wrong with these United States isn’t complicated–it’s about power and use of force. It’s about who wins races with the outcome determined far in advance. It’s about a bogus mythology we’ve been spoon fed since before we can recall otherwise.

The problems, whether glimpsed through the fog of chemical agents or seen with the clarity of long-suffering are identifiable; the solutions remain elusive.

I take solace in the crowds marching into the shadows of dark valleys, in the diversity of the faces looking for our better angels, and the growing awareness of what needs to change.

But I worry both about the press of the boot against those hopes and dreams and in the siren call of creature comforts and lines of credit.

Bob Dylan wrote how the times where changing before the lived experience of the majority of those now pushing against the walls of indifference and hostility. He wasn’t wrong. It’s just taking a lot longer than he imagined.

So, to all those tasting the fiery lash of tear gas and pepper spray for the first time-welcome to the struggle.

It matters.

This is Kenneth E. Hartman, Executive Director of The Other Death Penalty Project, from inside California’s prison system.