I’ve been in prison for almost 17 years. Like so many other poor men raised in the ghettos throughout this country, I am guilty of the crime of ignorance, self-hate, and the desire to follow the road to self-destruction.
Though our families tried to give us the tools they felt would lead to a more respectful life, these tools were often fruitless due to the psychological warfare we are forced to deal with. We are molded by our conditions of poverty, resulting in the development of an animalistic instinct to survive. We are purposely handicapped by our real teachers — the media, movies, and the music industry — all promoting war, violence, theft, sex, and drugs. They call it entertainment. I bear witness that it’s a slow death for a young impressionable mind. It’s like giving you a rope and instructing you that hanging yourself with it is okay . . . the right thing to do even.
Then, you have those who have supposedly escaped this trap, who have selfishly forgotten where they came from, turning a blind eye to the struggling people left behind or joining hands with the capitalists who once contributed to their demise. What good does it do you to gain the world but lose your soul?
I see them as the consciously dead. A conscious death is worse than a physical death; though you breathe life, you, being mentally manipulated, don’t realize you’re a pawn waiting for the master minds who control your third king to make their next move.
Once a person lands in prison, the same mental manipulation is taken to the next level. It divides and then conquers. They set out to destroy you mentally so that your dreams become only of your prison surroundings, and your goals become things that will keep you in prison or bring you back. Your family is often destroyed — life goes on for them without you. It’s easier to forget about you than to suffer with you. This leaves you mad at the world, a walking time bomb. Violence becomes a way of life, a justified answer to all your problems.
There are those who get a second chance to enter society again and will prey on their own neighborhoods — the true products of their environment. Their carefree nature leads them to know no better. Now, the think tank that designed this system must commend itself on a job well done. They lay and await their harvest: your welcome return to prison. Another one bites the dust, another job created. It’s nothing personal — just business. I need to feed my family, so I destroy yours.
Has it yet become clear to the American people that this is why they have taken away all productive programs and counseling in prisons?
Fortunately, there are some who, after many years of looking in the mirror, begin to reflect and see what they have let themselves become. They start looking for answers, soul searching, digging deep inside themselves, finding their great attributes as human beings. Their journeys become positive. Though they make these transformations for the good of themselves, they aim to save others from the condition they once suffered from.
America sent a message to convicts on December 12, 2005 when they executed Stanley Tookie Williams: there is no redemption for you, and they will never forgive you for your sin. I don’t know personally if Mr. Williams was guilty or innocent, and I am sincerely sympathetic to all surviving family members for their loss. But it was clear that Mr. Williams had changed. His actions spoke loud and clear that his goal was to save lives.
Mr. Williams, however, became more of a threat because he was trying to awaken the consciously dead. What brought us to prison and what keeps us coming back? It’s part of someone’s plan to keep us consciously dead.
America needs to wake up, before it’s too late. Our children are killing each other in the streets and on the schoolyards; they are killing even their own parents in their own homes. It’s the Tookie Williams’ of the world who can save them because we relate to their pain.
Now, I call on every convict or ex-convict to not let Stanley Tookie Williams’ death be in vain. Embrace that road to change — it’s paved beautifully. Pick up a pen and share your transformation with family and friends. Write a book. Get your message out there to the children.
Illustration by Eric Drooker
I also call on the American people to adopt a prisoner and reassure them that someone cares. A little love can go a long way. Let’s give hope and life and stop the death penalty. It’s not the answer. May this message be received well. The struggle continues.
K.A. Rashid Shariat Law
P.O BOX 1989
Ely, Nevada 89301
This essay by K.A. Rashid Shariat Law was originally published by PrisonerSolidarity.org (based in Youngstown, Ohio, and edited by Angela C. Jancius, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, and Daniel Sturm). In his letter to the editors of PrisonerSolidarity.org, Law writes: “Like him [Siddique Abdullah Hasan], I am a victim of the unjust riot prosecutions. I was charged with a crime that they knew I didn’t commit and then sent [me from Youngstown] out here to Nevada. . . . I’d like to thank you for your contribution to the struggle, and to send apologies to everyone in my community for shame I brought to it and the ignorance of the crimes I committed against it. I owe a lifetime of debt to the people of Youngstown and to my family. Prison may be the end of the road for me physically, but I vow to reach out to the world with my pen, and try to make a positive difference.” You may contact Law at the above mailing address.