The train stopped, but the old man did not move. The driver glanced down at him, but the old man did not move, nor did he look up at him when he finally waived him off.
He’s had a long ride. Life has taken him to places many can’t claim to have gone in their lifetime. He sat outside in what would seem to be peaceful thoughts, enjoying the fresh air and “freedom.” Forty-one years he has spent in prison. Looking at him with a critical eye, you would say his life is over; But to him, it has just begun.
This man is not a figment of my imagination, but he is the many adults who have been incarcerated since they were kids, so this man could be your father, your brother, your son or even you. This man is me.
Like him, I have spent the majority of my life in prison for a childhood mistake that took place many years ago, Prison, a cold concrete reality that tends to strip an individual of all things that make them human. The punishment of crime.
In 1994, an innocent man died in a store. This is what led me to where I am today. I realize that my life, growing up in a broken home and foster care, with no sense of direction were key factors in my arrival to the Texas prison system, as a juvenile certified as an adult.
When I was a child, so young, not fully understanding the seriousness of my situation or future circumstances, my life was so dark that I could not see any building blocks towards a bright future
Like many children whose childhood circumstances led them down a negative road, I failed to acknowledge the opportunities that I had, regardless of being in a limited position. I never focused on a positive goal. I never knew what that looked like.
Today, I look from my prison cell and I see those opportunities mostly because I am a man now, a man of consciousness.
I see the young souls fighting in a world that has not shown them how to fight for opportunity. I see these kids joining gangs because kids who struggle with the same obstacles form unity with each other. I see these kids who sell drugs to buy clothes because they don’t want to be laughed at, I see these same kids coming to prison or waiting for a prison cell.
When you certify a child into the adult prison system, you take away the opportunity for that child to grow and heal. You are saying in so many ways, that a child that young doesn’t have ability to change, when change is inevitable for us all. You are overlooking that child’s past, and the story that brought that child to the place that he or she is today. If America won’t care for our youth, who will?
When you place a child in the adult prison system, you not only put that child in potential danger from adults in that system, but you also endanger the child’s rehabilitation process.
Youngwar strives to change not only the certification laws but also to save our youth from the criminal justice system. We strive to reach these juveniles who are caught up in the web of crime at a young age, with our understanding that being poor, illiterate and from a dysfunctional family can contribute to a child joining a gang and becoming a statistic, throwing their life into the concrete hell called the prison system.
The criminal justice system has stolen far too many of our children. We must free them from the mindset that will leads them into a life of captivity.
Jermaine Hicks 2016