I spent some time this week with NAACP officials analyzing the Georgia Prison Strike that occurred last month. The fallout has been unbelievable, as some of the inmates were reportedly beaten with hammers for choosing to participate in the work stoppage. One of the inmates allegedly has brain damage and is in a wheelchair as a result of the beatings. Perhaps that’s what happens when you simply ask for basic human rights, which we’ve denied prison inmates for far too long.
Seeing what happened to these brothers and sisters after this incident was a cold, stern reminder that there is an infinite amount of work that needs to be done to clean up our criminal justice system. Most of us think that prison has nothing to do with us, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. One out of every three black boys born this decade is expected to spend time in state prison, federal prison or local jails. Also, the United States puts more people in prison than any country in the world, and most of us are only God’s grace or one bad situation away from ending up in the big house. Additionally, there are millions of black folks who’ve seen their fathers, brothers, sisters or cousins negatively impacted and traumatized by this system, even when they were innocent. The experience of prison is bad enough and only made worse by not being able to get a job for life, losing the right to vote, and not having access to housing or education.