Beyond Bars: Safety and Liberation

This is the first post for our series, Beyond Bars. Beyond Bars blog posts are pieces sent to us from currently incarcerated people. These posts are not written by Ella Baker Center staff and we try to keep them in their original form. The Beyond Bars series is meant to foster connections with folks inside by sharing their stories, perspectives, and vision with our supporters. If you have been touched by a particular piece or would like to send a note of encouragement to any of the authors you may email it to norma@ellabakercenter.org or send a letter to:

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Attn: Norma Orozco
1970 Broadway, Suite 1125
Oakland CA, 94612

Editor's Note: These are separate pieces where the authors discuss their perspectives on safety and liberation. In the first piece, the regulations that Jesse discusses were implemented under Proposition 57. Proposition 57 addresses California's prison crisis by implementing the following reforms: 1) eliminating direct file by requiring judges, not prosecutors to decide whether youth should be tried as adults, 2) granting CDCR the authority to expand credits for people in state prison for meeting educational, rehabilitative, or “good behavior” goals, and 3) allowing people convicted of “nonviolent” felonies to be eligible for parole consideration after finishing the full term of their primary offense. This initiative would help reduce the prison population, keep youth out of the adult system, and increase incentives for rehabilitation. 

Safety, Liberation, and Regulations

Life in prison takes a toll on a person’s outlook. For a long time, a life sentence literally meant separation, alienation, and death. However, the recent changes in California's laws and the Department of Corrections’ emphasis on rehabilitation have helped redefine life, public safety, and liberation. Simply incarcerating individuals has not solved society’s problems. In fact, simply locking people up has contributed to the criminal culture by leaving more parentless homes and breeding resentment in already emotionally distraught, dysfunctional individuals in instead of addressing the root of their problems.

Nevertheless, the new regulations are a step towards promoting public safety by giving prisoners incentives to examine themselves in order to address their deficiencies, character defect, and warped thinking. Good time credits and earlier possible release date generate hope, and hope initiates action. Public safety increases as individuals are encouraged to address their problems through self-help groups, education, and community activities. Eventually, these individuals will be assets in their communities because they are able to help others cope with reality. 

The new regulations facilitate a deeper liberating experience than just getting out of prison. Through positive programming, self-examination, and self-improvement many prisoners find freedom from the guilt, shame, and stigma of their past behavior and crime. This liberation comes with a personal sense of worth, purpose, and destiny, which are characteristics that help define and guide an individual throughout the course of their life whether in prison or in society.

Public safety is a collective concern that begins with personal accountability and responsibility. The new regulations do not do everything that needs to be done to stabilize society and reduce mass incarcerations, but they do help get the incarcerated to do their part. 

- Jesse

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Hi there everyone - Much love/respect!

I would like to express what “Safety” means to me:

“A baby finds ‘safety’ in the arms of their mother.” It’s the love that she generates that causes this sense of safety.

Likewise:

I find ‘safety’ in the arms of my human family when they embrace me.

‘Liberation’ is an interesting thing that means this to me:

“When the human family I just spoke of feel a sense of liberation from the seemingly oppressive nature of politics - I too, feel liberty (liberation)”

The message in all this - Generate from the heart, center family to create the reality that we all can embrace.

~Love/Respect~

Mark Stanley-Bey

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Safety and Liberation

Safety for me, has to be rooted in having a personal connection with someone who has your back, no matter what. That means you have someone in your life who talks to you, feels your pain, comforts you in time of need. They see you. They love you. They respect you. They trust you. 

When I get these things, I can relax. I feel good. I can sleep. I can smile. I can be myself and be safe. 

- Juan Moreno Haines