April is reentry month. I believe that reentry should always focus on three key elements and that’s mental health because of the transition from being locked in a cage to the outside world. Employment and housing should also be addressed. You could have a job with the right amount of money but still have no place to stay.
There’s a 70-year old black woman that I work with. She has a manslaughter conviction from 27 years ago. Her landlord is selling the house she lives in because he is older and can no longer afford to maintain it. He is even willing to be a reference for her, saying she was the best tenant he has ever had, but it is still hard to find a place for her to live. She is on social security, disability and has a section 8 voucher, but because of her criminal record, we cannot find a place for her to rent. I know a person is more than her criminal history, so I will not stop looking until she has a place to call home.
So I have to ask: “Why not make laws where people who come home from prison don’t get legally discriminated against because of their criminal history?”
We must not stop fighting for fair policies. We need a cultural shift of political consciousness – like what we see demonstrated by the youth we see today demanding fair treatment by the police and this unjust system- in order to change the undercaste system that has been put in place for those of us striving to be successful upon reentry. The time to act is now!
There is a critical need for our people to take a landmark stand against the injustice and unequal protection of the law that is being meted out to black and brown men, women and children by way of North Carolina and the United States Government and it’s criminal justice system.
The effects of the way we are unjustly sentenced and treated in prison and when we return to society is psychologically traumatizing and dehumanizing, and its inferiorizing influence is breeding hopelessness in incarcerated people and returning citizens. In fact, this effect is so inferiorizing that it has our people in society thinking there’s nothing they can do to support those incarcerated because they themselves have been beaten down by the government for so long that they feel the government is above the law and can’t nobody beat them. Which I totally understand, but that’s true.
The power of the people is always greater than the people in power. We must take a stand today and demand our Justice and Equality. Not begging and negotiating with the same system that enslaved us! We have the power so let’s get to it!
Daquan Peters provides supportive services for justice-involved individuals and is a Second Chance Alliance Coordinator