Okay, good evening. My name is Charles Kareem Diggs. I’m calling from Pennsylvania, uh, state prison, a Phoenix, and the title of my essay this evening is “How Long?”
What did Dr. Martin Luther King mean when he said he could not wait any longer for change? In 1865, slavery was abolished; 13th amendment and the 14th amendment adopted; in 1868, conferred citizenship on African Americans; wiping out the stain of Dred Scott decision. The undemocratic system lasted until the 1960s; the African American population, regardless of popular belief, that slaves were freed as a result of the civil war and emancipation proclamation; is not totally accurate.
The government instituted Jim Crow, laws, rules, and regulations—confined over 4 million Africans to terror, oppression, violence, and early death. Some historians said it was much worse than plantation slavery. The history is necessary before the American people can have an honest discussion of massive imprisonment of American blacks. Their energy that is being used to justify more prisons, mandatory, severe sentencing is never ending. The virus created out of slavery, but formatted with classy words of deterrence, incapacitation, punishment and rehabilitation will continue to defect billions of dollars and to law and order rhetoric.
The last 50 years have been a steady flow of citizens moving in and out of prison across America. Prisoners are no longer just young men in our prime, but we have become senior citizens. I am 68 years of age, the 42 years, seven months, five days in prison, no parole review system in Pennsylvania, almost 2000 women and men wasting their lives time and your tax dollars are over 60 years old in Pennsylvania.
How long does a system ignore the humanity of their citizens? How long does a legislature body call themselves enlightened educated men and women tolerate a system of waste? Their rejection of change is directly a contradiction of capitalism.
Dr. Martin Luther King was an educated African-American man from the South. He completed college and was a ordained minister. He understood government politics, religion and capitalism. He discovered that the military-industrial complex, racism, sexism was all an American disease that had to be dismantled and turned around. He believed we do not have the privileges of waiting. How long do we ignore the message of history? Which deals with the truth of American democracy. It works for some and not for others.
The unjust journey of African Americans was not fair or just; it has been an unjust legal system codified by man. It was not rooted in eternal law or natural law. How long did we continue to accept the myth that are conditions is based on our laziness, criminal nature, and our childlike cowardice. It is suggested that the competing groups who have a host of interests begin to change the tradition of Democrat, Republican theories. They think out of the box and create significant solutions. That will begin a different approach to our national conditions of massive over punishment systems. Our continued third class position in America remains because we accept these educated policies, studies and solutions of the African American problem.
If deterrence, punishment, incapacitation and so-called rehabilitation has not worked for centuries. Why are we still advocating these 16th, 17th century misguided solutions? The European model of prison, punishment, torture. It has failed in every area of criminal justice, prison and judicial levels have also failed. The reason it has failed and will continue to cost billions of dollars each year in every state with millions of lives and families are the collateral consequences of old men addicted to a slave system operating on profit, generated out of suffering and racial animus.
How long do we continue to obtain degrees in criminology, prison management, criminal justice, and sentencing mitigation experts. These special areas of learning maintains the present system. The ideology of punishment has failed. How long do we rationalize 3 million people forced to exist in cages without a female mate, nutritional food, healthy forms of rehabilitation?. How long, how long, how long do we sleep? The integrity of it, of history and the human rights struggle in America, begs the question. How long?
Perhaps the old saying that a bad man is a good man’s mission. A good man is a bad man’s teacher. Where are the women and men to bring about a new reality, a society to government that begins putting human beings as top priority, regardless of status and race.
Thank you for listening to my essay. I hope to speak with you again. Thank you.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.