Ice Pick Leaves Prison for Compton

By · Friday, January 30th, 2009

Ice Pick is 35-years-old, and he has been incarcerated since he was 21. He was sentenced to serve 30 years, but a judicial decision resulted in Ice Pick’s sentence reduction. He transferred to this minimum-security camp in Taft, California because his time cut resulted in reclassification.

Ice Pick hails from what he described as a ghetto in Compton. He quit school in the 9th grade. When he began serving his sentence in a United States Penitentiary, Ice Pick said that he could neither read nor write. With a 30-year sentence to serve, he said that he didn’t have much of an interest in learning.

“I couldn’t see no point,” he told me. “I done had so much time to do that I wasn’t interested in crackin’ no books. I was rackin’ skulls. Just doin’ the damn thing.”

For the first ten years of Ice Pick’s sentence, he bounced around from one penitentiary to another. He kept himself in trouble, running gambling rings, hustling contraband, fighting, extortion, living the penitentiary life. During one stretch, Ice Pick served 26 months in the hole under an investigation for a riot.

Now, after 14 years of imprisonment, a judicial decision that revisited the severity of crack cocaine sentences has resulted in Ice Pick’s imminent release. He will return to the Compton community in four months. With minimal reading and writing skills, no work experience, and 7.2 percent reported unemployment rates across America, the odds for Ice Pick’s success upon release do not seem favorable.

Our prison populations are filled with people like Ice Pick. They serve lengthy sentences and they have no hope. Without hope, they lack both the foresight and the energy to sustain commitment in programs that will prepare them for re-entry to society as law-abiding citizens.

We need prison reforms that will motivate prisoners like Ice Pick to develop skills and credentials that will help them upon release. President Obama and the new Congress will soon unleash a massive economic recovery program. I pray that the plan will include provisions that will inspire prisoners to train for jobs in society.

Prison reforms should bring incentives that will encourage prisoners to work toward earning freedom.

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