They are sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren of men held in prison for far too long. These children are of that wave, now - swept up each time their fathers are flopped. "Flopped" is prison parlance for "You can't go home." For the children, "flopped" is
It has become a human rights issue in America - not the locking up of men, but the keeping of men for political and financial gain. (Even in China, long-maligned for its human rights abuses, is pointing the finger at the U.S., and challenging its record.) For, here in American, fellow Americans are being denied their freedom so that other men and women can have jobs. They are caged endlessly so that politicians can appear "tough on crime." They have even become and interstate commodity to be bought and sold like so much c
hattel. These poor Americans are kept in such straits because their fellow Americans do not care, and they, themselves cannot afford real attorneys who might negotiate their release.
These men are pebbles cast upon the waters; their children, the ripples those pebbles create. That those ripples shall become waves is as inevitable as the tides.
These children are bound to their fathers, and by extension, they are bound to the prison system. They know when their fathers have served their minimum sentences ordered by the courts. They know of the disciplined behavi
or that has allowed their fathers to fashion good prison records. They are aware when their fathers have abided by all R&GC recommendations - held jobs, completed educational and rehabilitation programs. If there was more the State could ask of their fathers, they know their fathers would do it. But the State has nothing more - except it has cruelty; except it makes these men stay imprisoned for no other reason than it does not feel like letting them go.
There is the pebble that strikes the water that starts the ripples - those ever-expan
ding concentric circles that touches one child after another - one classroom, one neighborhood - until its currents of bitterness and resentment, by degrees, reaches us all.
But there is an alternative wave, the one whose catalyst-pebble is a father returned to the fold. That wave begins with a smile. And there, too, its ever-expanding circles touch one child after another, until its ripples of joy infect entire schoolyards, and by degrees, travel in all directions to infect the world.
No link in this human chain can be broken. We are one, and shall sink or swim together. Those we would seek to drown will not go before their time; neither will they be left beh
ind. They will cling to this scow until we are all rightly scraping bottom.
There is life in prison - good life; life that has paid its debt, and now eagerly awaits a chance at redemption. Those who would smother that life - out of vengeance; out of might, though they be devoid of right - criminally wrong.
It is one thing to die, it is another to be buried alive. Many of these men cry out of their prison sarcophagi with cries that wake their children in the night. They are not the cries of men whose time of death has come. They are the cries of men with lives yet to live, and more than anyone, their children know the difference.