End mass incarceration, consider giving opportunities to the elderly

Tanya Quinata August 6, 2017 0

Image from Pixabay.

Most people love to tell stories, but the stories that they tell are basically one-sided. In Danger of a Single Story, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she speaks about the danger that one-sided stories can cause. She says these stories are incomplete and can lead people into giving undue credence to stereotypes. Although the single story can be dangerous, the whole story can balance out the complete narrative by adding important information that completes it. One story, a crime committed by an individual, takes a snapshot in a person’s life, and eliminates perspective and context. It disregards the past, negatively taints the future, and presents a “present” that leaves little hope or incentive. We, as a people should be more than this. We should allow others to be more than this or we run the risk of spending our lives complicit in oppression.

So, here I am writing this to support the release of the elderly people who are incarcerated. I believe that if a person has done everything in their power to correct their deficiencies and comply with all of the department’s requirements they should be given the opportunity to re-enter society.

Giving the elderly this opportunity would be beneficial for everyone in society to see that rehabilitation is possible.

I do not know what story is behind the decisions that a person took to end them in prison. I can tell you that it is disheartening for any person to be judged on a crime or a single story. What about the first 40-plus years of a person’s life? What about a person’s 20-plus years of incarceration in which they have climbed mountains to make exceptional progress? A person’s life should not be based on one incident that occurred more than 20 plus years ago. People should be judged above and beyond a crime and should also be seen as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and, over all, human beings.

In my six-plus years of incarceration I have spent many days learning from my elders. They have inspired me to be a better person. I see them enrolling into numerous self-help programs and working hard every day without complaint. In this environment it is important to see people being positive role models for others and many do just that. From what I see they not only want what is best for their future but, also a good future for everyone else around them.

I agree with the law that we are responsible for our actions; however, being removed from society for more than 20 years is unreasonable. Anything after 15 years of incarceration is unjust and is basically warehousing human lives. I know that I am not the same person I was 20 years ago. And you yourself have also changed from the young inexperienced person who could not make a cognizant decision to a person who is in a position to make decisions that could positively change a person’s life.

We need to support the movement to end mass incarceration. I believe helping the elderly with long term sentences is a good start.

Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together (F.I.G.H.T.) was started by a group of Asian & Pacific Islander (API) men who were at one time incarcerated in the Washington state prison system. F.I.G.H.T. is a direct outgrowth of the organizing that many of us did through different API groups in different prisons. This organizing built deep bonds of unity among us. Together we learned about our own diverse cultures and political histories, life experiences, and perspectives. We also created cultural celebrations featuring various forms of traditional arts, like language, music, and dance.

Upon being released, we stayed committed to continuing to support each other, whether inside or outside of the prison system. We support both current and formerly incarcerated APIs through mentoring, advocacy, outreach, and political education. We encourage each other to embrace positivity, compassion, strength, hope, confidence, and building healthy lives and healthy communities, while breaking the cycle of mass incarceration. For more information, visit www.fightwa.org. 

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