“The Great Contradiction.”
Last week, I was in my aggression replacement training, A-R-T, program that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision mandate certain prisoners to take, regardless if we need it or not.
The program is largely ineffective in this prison setting. Guys take it only because they have to. But when we’re surrounded by violence and aggressive prisoners and prison guards, how effective can aggressive replacement training be? Many of these prison guards need such training themselves.
I want to read a poem I ironically got in my A-R-T class. It’s not a part of the official curriculum, but it explains the great contradiction of prison. The poem is entitled just that: quote, “The Great Contradiction,” end quote.
We want them to be responsible, so we take them away, all responsibility.
We want them to be positive and constructive, so we degrade them and make them useless.
We want them to be trustworthy, so we put them where there is no trust.
We want them to be nonviolent, so we put them where violence is all around them.
We want them to be kind and loving, so we subject them to hatred and cruelty
We want them to quit being the tough guy, so we put them where the tough guy is respected.
We want them to quit exploiting us, so we put them where they exploit each other.
We want them to take control of their lives, so we make them totally dependent on us.
We want them to be a part of our community, so we isolate them from our community.
We want them to have self-worth, so we destroy their self-worth.
We want them to be merciful and empathetic people, so we judge them to the fullest extent of the law.
We want them to become healthy human beings, so we cage and treat them like animals.
We want them empowered and employable, so we remove their higher education possibilities.
I mean, really? What more can we ask of them?
That’s the end of the poem.
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook @freeDontieMitchell.
Thank you for listening, and God bless.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.