Eddie Ellis On Life After Prison
Because of its flawed policies and dysfunctional institutions, this society incarcerates more people per capita than does any other nation. We can’t continue along this path. We cannot afford to keep viewing these issues in a vacuum. We’ve got to do a better job of connecting the dots.
I remember there was a long pause while Sandy panted and our grand-aunt cried and we tried to calculate how we were going to get this dog out of the house and into the car. And then my tall kid brother bent down and picked Sandy up as if the dog weighed no more than an ounce, and he straightened up, with his arms full of dying dog, and there was this look on his face that I just cannot find the words for. That’s the story I want to tell you.
Among the more concrete ramifications of this corruption of the imagination is that when the police suspect a black man or boy of having a gun, he becomes murderable: Murderable despite having earned advanced degrees or bought a cute house or written a couple of books of poetry. Murderable whether he’s an unarmed adult or a child riding a bike in the opposite direction. Murderable in the doorways of our houses.
I told Alex that, even though I’d gotten kicked out of etiquette school, I’d actually learned how to be a lady from our grandmother, and that it had nothing to do with how you get out of a car or set a table, but with how you treat people: how you look at them when you’re talking, and whether you actually listen when they try to tell you something important.
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies / are not starving someplace, they are starving / somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. / But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. / Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not / be made so fine.
— from “A Brief for the Defense”
Three bearded rabbinical students in a rented car, / trunk filled with menorah kits and grape-juice bottles, / we pulled away from the all-male yeshiva in New Jersey / and headed west, into the heart of Pennsylvania, to celebrate / Chanukah with the Jewish inmates of Allenwood’s many prisons.