Peace, my bunky, is an older guy who is really sick with cancer and has a life sentence. I just told him I will need the light tonight because I need to do some writing. I explained this project to him and asked if he wanted to share anything. To my surprise, he said yes. And here’s what he has to say:
“The name is irrelevant and has been for the last 32 years. I’m either going to die in prison from a life sentence of old age or of this cancer I’ve been battling for two years now. Someone who can help others fight their case through legal help and possibly receive a reduced sentence or become immediately free one day, but can’t do anything for themselves is called a jailhouse lawyer. That’s been my occupation for the last three decades. During this mass incarceration in Michigan, I have read over many young men’s paperwork that eventually led them to this place, and I must say the injustices of the courts, when it comes to attorneys and the police, have shown that the people are guilty until proven innocent. If it may be a dying wish, I wish for a justice system that will allow incarcerated citizens who demonstrate and exhibit behavior change in measurable ways to have the opportunity to not be confined for such lengthy periods of time, due to the same injustice system who sentenced them. All praises to Allah!”
Well, today is June 30, 2021, and I hold a wonderful frame of mind of what I am going to write about two weeks ago. Since then, my thoughts of what to say have changed. That happens quite often in prison. Your mood, actions, thoughts and overall well-being can change every few seconds. I decided to write about my day in prison today, which is two days before I turn 29 (on July 2).
Every guy in here I’ve been incarcerated with has called me Brightno or Bimo, which is all short for Brightmoor, which is a neighborhood located in Detroit on the Westside. It’s a nickname some guys gave me my first few days in prison. I was cool with just being Twom, but my days of physically being free were over. So six years out of the 21 years I’ve served for a non-violent crime, I rode with whatever they chose to call me, as long as it was nothing disrespectful. You’ll often gain a nickname around here because of your looks, actions, skills or, like me, your neighborhood.
Earlier today I was placed in solitary confinement for a cool off. Solitary confinement is one of the many places they will put you with no contact from anyone, no privileges of any kind, and more often it’s either a single cage or a cold, dark room where you’re closed in by bricks and a solid door with a small serving slot. There is usually a small mat to lay on, a sink/toilet attachment and spiderwebs to keep you company. Time spent in solitary confinement can range from hours to years. In my case, it was a cool off that lasted only for six hours. I was placed there due to a disagreement in the chow hall. I was not given the proper portion of the meal being served, and I made staff aware. I was very frustrated because I was hungry. Now don’t get me wrong, the food here is awful. It makes me wish I ate all my food when I was younger; I think maybe then I wouldn’t be as hungry sometimes. Unfortunately, now I don’t have a choice unless I want to die of starvation. There are better items on commissary that we can purchase to eat, but that’s only if you have money in your account, and you’re not obligated to pay restitution to the courts for fees owed. I am one of those prisoners that owes so often it becomes a battle of surviving here—not due to the problems you may encounter yourself with other stressed, lonely, angry, emotional prisoners, but because of the injustice of the prison institution.
I am only allowed to receive 50 dollars a month; anything beyond that, the courts will take. They never get lucky, though, because my job pays $1.31 a day. I only have a three-day detail scheduled to work my porter job, so I barely make enough for personal hygiene. If I’m looking to purchase stamps to keep in contact with family or maybe a snack for when it feels like my stomach is touching my back, then I have to use other means to get those items. That could possibly lead to more disciplinary actions from the prison staff.
I often think about how life will be once I’m free and have adjusted back into society. I have not adjusted into prison because there are constant obstacles, from prisoners stealing your stuff to officers harassing you daily. They say once you start doing something for a while, you become good at it, and become a professional. Doing this time, I don’t ever see myself as no professional.
I have always wanted to be a mechanical engineer or work as a professional in civil technology. The lack of money denied me the opportunity to stay enrolled in college, so I turned to a life of crime, with some guys believing it would be an attempt to help support the life I wanted. Even though the others were never mentioned, charged or anything, I accept full responsibility for the role I played in the crimes I was convicted of, and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t understand and feel the emotional, heartbreaking pain that I put my family as well as my victim’s through.
If I could go back in time, this story would not exist by me because that young, immature, careless person I was is now long gone and will never return. It’s almost time for lights to go out here, and I do not want to get in any unnecessary trouble, so to wrap this story up, I am dedicating this to one of the very few friends I have left. I know I made some poor choices, and I truly apologize for abandoning you due to incarceration, but I can assure you, I am much smarter, stronger, wiser and more mature. I am still short and cannot wait to just hug you again.