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I WAS THE LUCKY ONE
I was homeless for close to a year when I was 19 years old. I stole food to eat, and had some good friends that let me crash with them a night or 2 here and there. I ran into some of the craziest people you can imagine, slept under a pier, in a park, wherever I could that people would leave me alone and I wouldn’t get into any trouble. I was lucky; no seriously I was extremely lucky. I didn’t think about it at the time, especially when I was sleeping in a park when it was maybe 30 degrees out and the sprinklers came on and soaked me but I was so lucky. I never got arrested while I was homeless.
That may seem counterintuitive because there are a lot of homeless people who will commit a crime just so they do get locked up, hoping for 3 hots and a cot. Prison life being a step up in both safety and health rather than being on the street. What about people just making it, living paycheck to paycheck? Their desire is to make more, have an easier life, “3 hots and a cot” is not on their agenda.
Sandra Bland was arrested on July 13. 2015; she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. This was a big case in Texas, well let me say this correctly this was a big story in 2015. She was arrested and held in jail for a $500 bail. She was broke and could not afford the bail. She did not have a history of committing crimes. To this day no one really understands why she was not offered personal recognizance. As a matter of fact, the amount of people that are offered personal recognizance has gone down more than 60% since the new millennium. Sandra was in jail for 3 days before she hung herself with a sheet.
Then there is Kalief Browder, or I should say was Kalief Browder. As I was learning about this I must have yelled out loud “you have to be fucking kidding me” at least 10 times. Ironically Jay Z has made a 6-part documentary going into detail on Kalief’s story coming out on Spike TV 10 pm March 1st I think. He was a 16-year-old kid walking home from a party with friends. About 5 cop cars pull up all around them and start questioning him about where he had been all night. See they had a “victim” in one of the cars that said their backpack was stolen earlier that day. This was the first “you have to fucking be kidding me” because when it was clear Kalief hadn’t been around to steal the backpack that day the “victim” said no wait it was last week it happened, and then the Bronx PD arrested Kalief. Yep say it with me, what the fuck!
As I mentioned earlier, you are just accused of a crime and your ass gets locked up. Kalief’s bail was set at $9000, the family needing $900 to get him out. Like I had mentioned about a lot of people earlier, this family lived paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have $900. They were saving up to do the best they could to get him out. What happened was after 2 weeks on being in prison, someone got clued in that years earlier Kalief got arrested for joy riding and was on probation. So, because of that bail was taken off the table. Let’s think that through for a minute a kid does some bad shit and goes out joy riding, gets busted but now he has been arrested. He HAS NOT BEEN TRIED, FOUND GUILTY OR AND CONVICTED, so now professing his innocence, he is stuck in a crazy horror movie amongst some of the scariest adults you will fine in one collective place. On a side note someone is going have to explain to be in a world where officers of the court profess the fairy tale of innocent until proven guilty but lock a kid up for 3 years who ends up being innocent. Makes no fucking sense.
While in Rikers a 16-year-old boy amongst a bunch of men is getting beat up both by inmates and cops. In one instance a cop slammed Kalief against the ground, a wall and a railing. Video shows Kalief not resisting at all and not showing that he did anything to provoke this. For this Kalief ended up getting thrown in solitary. 23 hours a day in a 12 by 7 room. By the way of the 3 years this kid spent in jail, yes you read correctly when it was all said and done he spent 3 years in Rikers because of a slow ass system. Kalief spent over 400 days in solitaire confinement. Think about that for a moment. As a society, we may be numb to that sentence but break it down, you have someone who hasn’t been found guilty of a crime, professes his innocence so much that he refuses to take a plea deal because he did nothing wrong, has had bail taken away and has spent 3 years in prison, who may be innocent. Oh and by the way he went in at 16, his brain is still developing and he gets over 400 days in a 12 by 7 cell where its known to cause schizophrenia and a myriad of other mental illnesses. Especially in a not fully developed brain, say of a 16-year old kid.
To put a bow on this saga, when it all was said and done, Kalief was found innocent; the state didn’t have enough to make its case. So, 3 years in prison 400 days in solitary for a kid that didn’t do anything. Oh by the way he attempted suicide 6 times, starting while he was in jail and was finally successful when he was 22 years old. Sad thing is this is not the only case like this, especially in Rikers.
One thing I really didn’t know before doing this blog is how big the bail bond industry is as a lobbyist group. We thing of big oil, big tobacco, the banking industry but the bail bond industry is the 3rd biggest lobbyist group. They are getting a ridiculous amount of interest on the bail posted and when people put up collateral like their houses or cars. They just rake it in. So as bad as we talk about privatizing prison being bad the bail bond industry is bullshit as well. There aren’t only laws and amendments in place but there are supposed to be precedents that show and dictate that bail is supposed to be set at a range that is affordable to the person on trial. The ability to pay is supposed to be taken in to consideration. At least it is supposed to be a main consideration when setting bail. It is also incredible the amount of people that are detained before trial.
I have to go back to the beginning of the blog, I was so lucky. Maybe it was since I was white, or I just was lucky enough to elude the arrests, because I couldn’t have afforded $100 bail back then and when you hear some of the stories. To give you an idea what its like, in 2013 a man by the name of Bradley Ballard was in Rikers. After 6 days in his cell he was found dead. Covered in urine and shit, LITTERALLY SHIT. This guy was legit mentally ill, before going in was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Of course, he wasn’t given his medicine but on top of that he wasn’t given water as well. Here is the shocker, this is not uncommon, close to 90% of the people who come out of prison are treated for PTSD. Factor in that I am epileptic, I take medicine on a daily basis, prison in one way or another would have killed me.
I have gone on long enough but 2 thoughts I will leave you all with, more than 100 minors a day are in solitary confinement, just in Rikers prison, imagine what that number is all across the united states. Now to be fair not all states treat a 16-year old like an adult and not all use solitary. Solitary confinement as per the UN is deemed as a form of torture tactic but some people, kids for that matter over a 3-year period are spending 400 days or more in a 12 by 7 cell for 23 hours a day. Even changing the name to “administrative segregation” doesn’t change the fact that its torturing kids.