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Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

It’s time to rethink our harsh laws and over sentencing, and how we treat the men, women and children behind bars, because everyone — including your children — is only one beer; one bad break up one silly office, domestic or school-yard fight; one false accusation; or one curious and isolated mistake away from being torn from the tranquility of their daily lives and thrown into one of these unsympathetic state-sanctioned institutions, where the smallest incident can result in their throat being cut by a ruthless gang member. They could be fed bad food, given little to no medical, dental or mental health treatment; be humiliated by strip and anal cavity searches; and exposed to hepatitis, tuberculosis, AIDS or the coronavirus. 

And this is it. This is where we are and what we as Americans have become. So, in the days ahead, we will have to choose between mercy and punishment. Between reason and ignorance. Sanity and insanity. Between hope and despair.

The punitive choices we have made in the past have failed. They continue to haunt and hurt us and to shape our communities as we try to move forward.

If we learn empathy for others and expand rehabilitation, education, diversion, and mental health services to those who can be rehabilitated, and offer second chances as opposed to life behind bars, only then can we as a once civilized nation return to baseball, apple pie and good old-fashioned honesty. 

I implore you: Do not stop your inquiry into police brutality or the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Pay attention to politics and demand criminal justice reform.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Randy A. Watterson is a writer incarcerated in North Carolina. He is a member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and an activist in the Prisoner Human Rights Movement.