Everyday my dad is in that jail, I fear he may die because of harsh treatment prisoners are subjected to. This month inmates in prisons around the country, including where my dad is incarcerated, went on a hunger strike to protest the cruel treatment they receive. I wanted to go on hunger strike too, but my mom says that I am too young. She has joined the strike for me and has not eaten since September 9th.
“I really felt the stigma of being a convicted felon,” said Hernandez as he reminisced about his experience. “You are told that once you do your time, you can live free, but in reality the second part of your sentence begins when you are released.”
But while we acknowledge the progress that has been made, we must recognize how much further we have to go. There remains just over two million youth arrested each year in America. This would include the South Carolina girl and many like her where no video was taken. On any given day, there are nearly 70,000 youth incarcerated in the United States – six times the rate of England.
President Obama began his campaign for prison reform earlier in the month by commuting the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. Days later, he visited the El Reno federal prison outside Oklahoma City, the first sitting president ever to visit a federal penitentiary. After his visit, the president described the men he met at El Reno as “young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made.” Below, We’Ced youth journalists weigh in on the president’s decision to visit El Reno and his nascent efforts to reform the country’s criminal justice system.
My heart begins to pound as I enter the gym at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) on the outskirts of Chowchilla, about 20 miles south of Merced. Within moments memories of my own time behind bars flood my mind.