Poor Prisoners Differ From Rich

By · Friday, March 20th, 2009

Bernard Madoff swindled billions of dollars from thousands of victims. Despite his crime, a judge did not incarcerate him immediately upon the government’s discovery of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Scooter Libby was a lawyer and a highly placed official in the Bush administration. He was convicted of a crime and a federal judge sentenced Libby to serve several years in prison. Bush granted Libby an act of clemency, however, and the rich man did not have to endure the prison experience that ordinary Americans endure.

According to a report published by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, almost half of all the people who are sent to prison lack a high school diploma. The statistics seem to show that while the poor and uneducated are saddled with lengthy prison terms for criminal convictions, our system of justice gives more consideration to the rich and well connected.

My roommate, David, is a poor young man from a Hispanic family. He did not enjoy the life of power and privilege that criminals like Madoff and Libby exploited. David did not graduate high school and he made the bad decision of selling drugs to earn an income. He did not use weapons or violence, and he sold drugs to consenting adults. Yet his lengthy sentence suggests that our system of justice held David, a poor Hispanic man, to a higher standard than it holds the rich. That is an injustice, in my eyes.

Maria Perez is a criminal justice student who asked why I worked to help prisoners like David. As a long-term prisoner, I feel as if I have a responsibility and a duty to help all of my fellow prisoners. This is my calling, my ministry, the way I serve society and serve God. I strive to live as an example inside prison boundaries, and to inspire my fellow prisoners to work toward achieving their highest potential. Also, by writing about the prison system and the people it holds, I hope to apprise citizens of what goes on inside prisons and to influence prison reforms that will improve this wretched system.

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