Serving Democracy from Prison
Prison administrators would like to stop me from writing about the culture of confinement. I know this because numerous staff members have admonished me for writing books and articles that describe what I have learned from other prisoners. Administrators have ordered my transfer from three separate prisons, each time as a consequence of my writing. Nevertheless, I continue. As an American, I consider it my duty to apprise society of what transpires within this system that breeds failure at a cost of $60 billion in taxpayer funds each year.
If prisoners do not write about prison experiences, taxpayers do not have any source of information about life inside these boundaries other than the administrators. As a long-term prisoner, I recognize that taxpayers may discount whatever viewpoints I offer. That’s fine. I can accept their cynicism. Through regular contributions, and the example I set from my own adjustments, I hope to earn their trust.
By limiting or blocking my ability to communicate, administrators obstruct my First Amendment right to communicate. They also interfere with every other American citizen’s right to know and understand how prison policies influence the preparations offenders make for successful re-entry to society upon completion of their sentences. We all share the promise of what America can become, and as a prisoner, I hope to make contributions leaders may consider in their deliberations over strategies to improve our country’s system of confinement.
I serve the cause of democracy by offering more information for American citizens to consider. Our country confines more than 2.3 million people, and Congressional findings show that 650,000 people return to society from prison each year. As a man who has lived through this system since 1987, I have a duty to advance discussions on imprisonment. Those contributions represent one way that I serve this democracy I love.