Warehousing and silencing any segment of a population is a fear-based practice, and, in order for democracy to function, we believe it is important to hear from every segment of the population, even those disenfranchised by crime.
This could be a chapter in Latin American history coming full circle in the worst possible way.
Our "incarceration only" approach to public safety has left us with bloated prisons and jails, wasted tax dollars and sky-high recidivism rates (more than half of those behind bars end up back in prison within three years after they are released).
It seems not to matter that, like so many veterans of other ugly wars, the young people who experienced the brutal Drug War had only become soldiers in the first place because of a "poverty draft." It also seems irrelevant to most that the longer these young conscripts to the Drug War lived with its brutality, the more violent they themselves became.
"Doctors pulled the bullets out, patched me up and sent me back to the same neighborhood where I was shot. No one hugged me. No one counseled me. No one told me that I would be okay." If that emergency room treating Senghur had been trauma-informed, could he have been provided with the attention he may have needed and not have perpetuated the cycle of violence by eventually killing another man?
Is it possible to forgive a murderer? What if that murderer is you? This former drug dealer and convicted murderer was in solitary confinement when he had the awakening that would change his life forever.
As long as there have been societies, use of drugs and alcohol have been a part of them. Abuse of both drugs and alcohol is endemic, but could be better controlled were we to start treating drug and alcohol abuse in the same way; that is a public health problem that needs treatment, rather than only as a criminal law problem.
Is this what rehabilitation looks, feels, and smells like?
Government cannot police itself. Departments like the Internal Affairs Bureau of the NYPD and the Inspector General of New York can only do so much. It takes the lawyers for the injured and abused, to protect the less powerful and to effectuate true change for our communities.
We should be asking: Is the person is a danger to him or herself or to others if he or she had a gun? That is the question. The notion that we can use mental illness as a way to determine that someone is somehow more dangerous is just ill-informed.
Though I surely did not become more conservative with age or my first paycheck, I found a few things that I do not want my tax dollars funding. Unless we stand up for our values and make an attempt to have some say in where our tax dollars are going, we are complicit in the very types of oppression to which we are ideologically opposed.
Despite the lack of any reasonable hope of release, I am demonstrating my commitment to becoming a better productive member of society in whatever way I can.
"After I entered the profession I realized that being a journalist and a critic of the political authority in Iran meant that your publication could be shut down and you could end up in prison. However, I had fallen in love with journalism."
I don't like being treated as if my only value to the government is as a source of labor and funds. I don't like being viewed as a consumer and bits of data. I don't like being spied on and treated as if I have no right to privacy, especially in my own home.
This story is part of Double Charged, a special report on the U.S. juvenile justice system produced by Youth Radio. Ricky Brum standing near the sco...
Seventeen years later, I find that I'm again constantly thinking about solitary confinement. The horror stories that drive the public conversation about solitary are not stories to me, but memories.