A week our so ago I chance upon a video of a segment from the TV show Frontline. I watched it. It was heartbreaking. After the tragedy of Kalief Browder who committed suicide after three years in an adult prison as a teenager many people are more sensitive to the atrocities inflicted on youth, as well as adults, when they are made to endure years of solitary confinement. This young man, Alonza Thomas, spent 6 of a 13 year year sentence locked up in a cell by himself “for his own protection”, if you no what I mean.
I tracked him down and we talked face to face on video chat. What I found was a very scared, very lonely boy, because his life experiences not only didn’t allow him to grow up, he was scared of life as he now saw it. He had lived under such strict rules and had no idea now how to live life where he had the ability to set his own rules for himself.
He had violent experiences he can’t talk about because it makes him go to the “dark place” that is hard to get out of. I don’t know how much contact his family had with him during those years but I doubt it was enough. He, like Jamie, was moved to 6 different prisons and the distance often is makes it difficult. Time finished it off. Out of sight out of mind. The prison intends to destroy his mental health.
They threw him a party, as I imagine Jamie’s will, but then, because he is a grown man they will expect him to figure it out on his own with no knowledge of how to do that. He gets no help now so why expect they will help later? They won’t.
Alonza’s family expected him to figure it. Maybe they tried. Maybe when he didn’t fit in with his family of strangers they let him go. Whatever the reason, he spent the next 6 months sleeping in the park. He tried to go to a shelter but they required the men to shower together every day in one big room. Because of things that happened with the men in prison he is scared of being around men in any capacity, especially that one, so he was made to leave.
He hasn’t had contact with his mother in a year. Why? Is he not normal enough? Is he not her son anymore? I don’t have the answers. There is always more than one side to every story. I know I don’t have the complete story.
But this I do know – this would be Jamie’s story. Locked up before 17 with one year outside from 21 to 22. If Alonza had someone like me to reach in and grab hold could it have helped to have a different outcome? If someone had been able to teach him would it have made a difference? Why is it so important to me that I dedicate my life to changing even one person’s life?
Because . . . The only legacy we ever leave behind is the affect we have on other people’s lives.
http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison.com . . .Blog posts and other injustice in the world