Harsh reality

Brooks, Charles, Sr.

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Harsh Reality Besides short essay pieces such as this, I write a lot of poetry. I have entered a lot of my works into contests which has resulted in two of my pieces being published in the University of Michigan's Prisoner Creative Arts Program's anthology for 2015, as well as the upcoming Volume 8, due out in the spring of 2016. The title of 2015's anthology is, "Build Your Catacomb Anywhere But Here: The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, Vol. 7". This years anthology is untitled, as of now. Additionally, I am in the process of self publishing a collection of my poems, "Free Thoughts, Incarcerated Man". Harsh Reality Some days I wake, look around, and close my eyes again. It's not because I am not ready to face the new day. It's because I have dreamed I was free, and for those first few moments of waking, I am so disgusted to find myself within these walls. Doing time is so simple, yet, such a complicated feat. You just have to do the time, make it to your out date. Right? I don't profess to be innocent. After all, I'm serving my 2nd prison sentence. Still, I am not the monster that society would have you believe I am. I miss my family. I am contrite. Believe it or not, I'm not a bad father, brother, or child. Mostly. I'm a human being. Maybe I wouldn't be penning this now, if I were a better person. Maybe I could've, probably should've, chosen a different avenue as a means to provide. Who's to say, one way, or the other? I held a legitimate job. Hell, I had more than one, sometimes simultaneously. Until they found out about my criminal past. I filled out many applications, only to hear, "No felons are being hired at this time." I couldn't continue to persist in useless application processes. I picked up a gun. I committed robberies. Sometimes, I try to reconcile my life, now, within what I always thought my life would be. I never imagined divorce or that my children would be kept from me. I never considered that they may have to call someone else "Dad". I never fathomed I'd enter prison when my youngest wasn't quite 2, and I wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was 19. Without attempting to sound put upon, there was zero physical harm done in my case. None. Still, the same society who vehemently cried for as much time as possible on my sentence, was the same entity who saw fit to deny an ex con employment. The same who told a parolee, "No. You can't get any medical. You can get $153 in food stamps. Monthly. The only other assistance we can offer is WorkFirst." You mean the same WorkFirst that isn't currently hiring felons?! So, how am I supposed to house, feed, and clothe my children? How do I support my wife? Myself? I had no legitimate answers, so I turned to robbery. Knowing crime is not logically sustainable, it was all I had left. Now, I sit in prison. I seek rehabilitation. The same rehabilitation that was stated in the Michigan Department of Correction's Mission Statement. It is nonexistentant. I spend countless hours locked in a cell. 3'x13". Although, because most cells no longer have bars, the administration calls them rooms. The M.D.O.C. offers no classes that I fit the criteria for. I am a high school graduate, and the M.D.O.C. offers no trades, at least for prisoners with lengthy sentences. There are no classes for violent offenders, but amazingly I don't fit the criteria for those, either. I've taken Custodial Maintenance, but will today's information be relevant in 11 years? Will there be a saturation in the environmental engineer field? In it's graciousness, the M.D.O.C. allows it's inmates to take college courses. Did you catch the sarcasm? Let me explain. We are allowed to take courses from a handful of community colleges in order to pursue 2 year degrees in disciplines that are already passe'. The kicker? We have to pay the cost of tuition, and are not eligible for grants or scholarships. Maybe you can see past the irony, but I can't. I was committed to the M.D.O.C., as a result of crimes I committed in order to generate funds. The generation of funds was to improve my family's financial situation. Now, not only am I incarcerated, my family has lost that influx of cash. Furthermore, they have to send me money to assure that I can obtain the things I need. Not to mention that the budget in the State of Michigan is horribly out of control. The state is steadily trying to find ways to save their budget, at the expense of prisoners. Don't get me wrong; jobs are available in the M.D.O.C. for prisoners. They even pay us, even though the 13th Amendment says they don't have to. Most pay averages out to .17 cents per hour. This situation leaves me stunted, emotionally and economically. Can you explain to me how this is going to help me change my thinking? My ideology? I search for ways to cope. To change. To grow. Nothing's forthcoming. On a daily basis, I deal with the same issues that drove me to commit crime. Headed upon those issues is an added burden. It seems as if 80% of the M.D.O.C.'s population is from the Detroit area. There were regional prisons opened, to get prisoners close to home. This was in the early to mid 90's. Most of the regional prisons remain in operation. Except the 2 prisons for Detroit. In it's infinite wisdom, Michigan saw fit to close the Mound Road facility, and to sell the Ryan Road facility to Wayne County. Why? So that Ryan Road could be turned into a county jail. That leaves Macomb Regional as the closest facility to Detroit. It's roughly 20 miles outside of Detroit. It's harder for a prisoner to get to Macomb then it is to get a pardon from the Governor. The next closest facilities are in Adrian, Jackson, and Lapeer, all roughly 70+ miles from Detroit. Usually, we wallow in places like Kincheloe or Muskegon Heights. Languish in cities such as Coldwater or Ionia. Hours from home, only 2 possible weekend visits a each month. Another economic strain, because travel costs are high. Due to limited visiting options, your people look at 4-6 hours of travel time for a potential 5 hour visit? So, where is the rehab? Where is the effort, on the M.D.O.C.'s part, to change the mindset of it's prisoners? To prevent recidivism? It can't be in the programs they offer to prisoners, during their last year of time. Not if they've made these same prisoners sit idle for 5, 10, 20 years. In order to affect change, one must want, first, to change. I want to do whatever is necessary to prevent my return to prison. The options for change are narrower, in this, the supposed incubator of change than in the world. Doesn't this seem as if the M.D.O.C.'s Mission statement is hypocritical? If the mission of the M.D.O.C. is to rehabilitate it's populations of living, where is that effort being expended? Although not as high as other states, our phone rates behind these fences are 3 times as high as the rates for the cities the prisons are located in. The extra money we pay for the privilege of talking to our family is kicked into a special fund that the M.D.O.C. earmarked for their special needs. That's right. Our own monies are being used to buy taser guns, cuffs, ballistic vests, and other things for the M.D.O.C. Most of the people who are incarcerated seem to think that it was always meant to be this way. As if their cell were a predestined destination. Maybe it was. You may say that can't be but from the outside looking in, it's easy to believe in the system. The policies that the M.D.O.C. implements for order, are steadily manipulated to the administration's benefit. The misconduct hearings are a farce, because it violates the whole idea of "due process", as well as our grievance process. How can staff say that they want to rehabilitate me, when they perpetually manipulate their own policy and the law? Part of rehabilitation is to change the things in your past. Places, things, and people. With no viable options how is that even a realistic aspiration? I have a friend who became an employee of the M.D.O.C. I've known her since 1992. In 2011, after writing her a letter, I was called into the inspector's office at the facility I was in. I was told that I could have no contact with her from that point on. You mean to tell me that I can write, call, and daily interact with known felons, but Lord forbid I have a friend that is a law abiding citizen. Of all the people you'd expect the M.D.O.C. would want me to interact with, a 20 year friendship with a law enforcement agent seems as if it'd be at the top of the list. It would never cross my mind that they would tell me that I couldn't have contact with that type of citizen. Rehabilitation is a joke. I'm just chattel. That's how this system was designed to operate. I think about what I can do with the life that remains because there is nothing the M.D.O.C. is offering that will allow me to be ready for the world in 11 years. If the goal of the M.D.O.C. is to convince people that, in general, this is the best they can expect of life...well, they are succeeding. I just keep plugging away hoping that I can find the one thing that doesn't seem to be abundant within the M.D.O.C.'s pledge to rehabilitate: hope. It's why some mornings I wake, look around my cell, and close my eyes again.

Author: Brooks, Charles, Sr.

Author Location: Michigan

Date: October 18, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 8 pages

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