The criminal justice system, or, a system of justice for criminals, or, a criminal system for justice (the latter I won’t even touch on), however you scramble the words, one term remains inept for me… that is the term “criminal.”
“Criminal” connotes activity. In other words, it says that far after a crime was committed and years and years into their incarceration, people are still active in crime. This further strengthens public fear, a fear that subtly creeps into the safety of people’s subconscience. The usage of the term “criminal” misleads and misinforms legislators and voters. It definitely propagates that incarcerated men and women are incessantly committing crimes in jails and prisons, that people are STILL ACTIVELY physically hurting each other, selling drugs, and taking possessions that do not belong to them. Though that can be true for some, that may not be true for many. Speaking for myself, I can say that yes, 15 years ago, I committed a crime, but that does not mean I am a criminal today, a decade and a half later.
This is how my days are spent. I wake up first at around 4:30am and make my prayer. I go back to sleep for about an hour or so and then wake up at about 5:30am. I then drink coffee, watch the news, brush my teeth, wash my face, use restroom, apply hair conditioner, comb lustrous hair, put on clean clothes, gather all books, papers, folders, any notes with reminders for the day, make my bed, check hair again, then step out of my cell at about 7:00am. I then walk down the tier, down 5 flights of stairs, around the showers, out of the building, down another flight of stairs, to the lower yard, around the basketball court and into the education area. Mind you, this walk has its frequent interruptions of familiar wassups, handshakes and daps, several one-liner inside jokes tailored for individual relationships, and plenty of questions and requests from men in need of some assistance. Once at work (which is the Media Center), I clean up, settle in and then get to work on either some tedious video editing, shooting an interview, storyboarding, scoring or reading/learning/playing with/getting familiar with equipment, or someone outside is asking for me, or a phone call (internal) regarding some kind of logistics for some programs I’m involved in. Then, depending on if I have a tour, where I have to head up to the chapel area and speak to the public coming in, or I continue to work with a few more interruptions. By now its 12:00 pm, I may eat something (PB&J perhaps?), another prayer, then get back to work on editing, filming or being needed somewhere else around the Media Center. By 2:45pm (depending on what day it is), I’m off to some self-help group or college class. I come back at 5:00pm, make my prayer, workout, eat a bigger meal (rice and fish usually… or rice and beans) then I’ll shower, go back to the Media Center, and work on FirstWatch or Re:store (with slightly less interuptions) until 8:00pm. I then hang out on the yard with Sha and Earlonne for 30 minutes until yard recall at 8:30 pm and pray. By 9:00pm, I’m in my cell for the remainder of the night (everyone across the State of California is in their cells by 9:00pm for final lockup and count until next morning). But wait! There’s more! Once in my cell, I’ll either pick up a book I was reading, do some writing or studying or doing homework. I’ll glance at the TV every now and again to see if there’s anything funny on. Then I finally brush my teeth, make my fifth and final prayer, unroll my mattress, turn the light off, catch the last 10 minutes of the news for the day’s sports report, turn the TV off and lie down. Barring any brilliant night time ideas during my regularly scheduled night time reflections, I doze off to sleep and wake up to deja vu. The only difference being the weekends where I either go on a visit with my family, have youth coming in for our SQUIRES mentor program or playing basketball until 2:30pm. After 2:30pm, I go to the media center (yes, even on the weekends) to work.
There you have it, that (in a nutshell), is how my days are spent. That has been my routine here for several years now. Yes, I am incarcerated, and yes, I am doing time, but not as a “criminal.” Many men and women have a similar busy daily routine as I do in prisons that offer programs. Many men and women in other prisons that have limited programming and education opportunities still, ACTIVELY spend their time productively. Many of them write in to the SQ News and RE:STORE JUSTICE describing how they spend minutes, hours, days, and years living productive lives like any human outside of these walls does. Yes, we committed a crime, but we are not “criminals.”