My name is Sergio Hyland, and I’m from Philadelphia. Like the rest of America, prisoners across the nation have been glued to their television sets watching coverage of the uprising which resulted from the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man choked to death by police officers. As prisoners, we feel a deep connection to victims of police brutality. It takes place every day on the inside of prisons and jails in America. Each morning, we wake up with the ominous feeling that, if any particular guard is having a bad day, our life could be taken by their hands. Just like any other black person living in the ghetto, prisoners must be extra careful during our interactions with staff. One false move, and everything that we’ve worked so hard for would be destroyed.
And just like the police, prison guards are never forced to be held accountable for their actions. Instead, they’re called heroes, but how heroic is it for six armed cops to choke an unarmed black man who wasn’t even resisting? How heroic is it for ten armed correctional officers to beat one unarmed inmate and drag his lifeless body down the tier on display for everybody to see what happens if you dare question their authority.
Mass policing and mass incarceration are one in the same. If you claim to be against one, then you must also be against the other, because mass incarceration is the ultimate result of mass policing. And if police aren’t afraid to murder citizens on camera, just imagine what corrections officers get away with off-camera. Criminal justice is merely a fruit born from the tree of social justice. But a poison tree can only produce poison fruit. Therefore, as a society, we can’t seek justice for one group and not the other. We must seek justice for all peoples, especially those who have historically been targeted by their own government. And until the most vulnerable populations are treated with the same equity as the most secure populations, America will remain a nation of hatred and its associated violence.
My name is Sergio Hyland, and I’m from Philadelphia, and you can follow me on Instagram @uptownserg.