Voting: What Does It Really Cost?

Webster defines voting as: a choice or opinion of a person or body of person. A method by which groups of people make decisions.

If the 15th amendment of the United States Constitution states that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. And also The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a law passed to help enforce the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Which states an American citizen shall not be denied the right to vote due to race or skin color.

Why does every convicted felon in Virginia lose this sacred and honorable right? To automatically loss this right after being convicted of a felony offense speaks volume.

In many states, Virginia included; termination of the right to vote by convicted felons is automatic. This actually demonstrates how powerful voting is.

Just think you can be convicted of drinking and driving, serve time for reckless driving. God forbids you can injure or even kill someone, however your right to purchase alcohol isn’t terminated. The penalty for these acts could be a suspension of driving privileges for a period of time and fines. Some cases could result in jail time.

Yes, there’s a process for the restoration of voting rights. But we’re seeing how this process has become politically fueled and motivated.

So that would lead one to ask the question why terminate the right to vote?

Terminating this right actually silence you. You lose the right to have a say in major events. Many of these events are life changing.

We’re seeing in our divided democracy the increase momentum to limit accessed to voting. While watching some of our leaders spew false voting claim’s after being defeated.

We now have a part of society that believes that voting doesn’t matter. Many citizens fail to vote thinking their votes don’t count.

However just think “Roe v Wade” was repealed by the United States Supreme Court. This was after poor voting turn out led to a particular party winning control. Which afforded this party the right to appoint judges of their similar ideologies to the United States Supreme Court. Please realize that these lifetime appointments have dire consequences, with very limited oversight.

If “Roe v Wade” in 1973 can be repealed what’s next?
For many years the right to vote was a major issue.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I lost something that cost someone else so dearly.
However I look forward to regaining this sacred and honorable right.
We all must really pay close attention to the political climate in our divided country.

Just turn on your nightly news, advertisements, PACTS. As well as the billionaire donors. Everyone knows how important each vote is.

Many know how important power is. We’re seeing how even our freedom is often control by which party is in control.

We watched one party abolished parole while another attempted several reinstatement measures. Now our freedom is pending in the courts. With no one stopping to ask ” have we been rehabilitated.”
I agree there must be balance and accountability. There’s many behind theses walls deserving of another chance.

So please VOTE!!!! From our local election to the national election. Every vote matters. Failing to vote eliminates your voice.

If others are fighting so hard to take this right away we should see how important voting is.

And look at the large amount of money that is spent during election seasons. Its mind boggling to think millions are spent during elections, while citizens are homeless and hungry.

Again to all my brothers and sisters behind these walls please make it a priority to inform your family and friends to vote. So what does voting cost: YOUR FREEDOM! And your VOICE!!!!!

Samuel E Harris #1026738
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Captive, A Poem

don’t go turning sour
just because you’re around someone with power
the man of the hour
sitting in his fancy chair
in his fancy office, like some big tall tower
while robbing everyone bare
the system never plays fair
it gives us all gray hairs
leads us astray
trying to mold us like clay
to play their little games
blames us, its all our fault
but its all a result
of them trying to keep us in check
keeping their foot on our necks.

My name is Jennifer Zukerman. I’m currently at Fluvanna correctional center in Virginia.
This is my first incarceration and I got caught up in a very bad crowd that led me here. I’m glad to say that I’ve used this time to better myself and really analyze my decision making. I’ve found myself in my writing/ poetry. I really love to write and hopefully publish a book one day.

A Poem: I Still Wasn’t FREE

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I pray that you and your loved ones are well, and I pray that The Creator continues to bless you with the strength and the passion to continue fighting the good fight for us all. My Government is Timothy Terry, but my true attribute is Tyro Imhotep Na’Mapenzi, and I have been behind the wall for twenty years. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I will always do what I can to add on to what you all are doing for us in the name of true Liberation. Please accept my submission that expresses what FREEDOM means to me. I pray that my words are able to ignite at least one soul. Thank you for giving me an outlet, and I hope to hear from you soon. Peace and Blessings to you.

From every mountainside, let FREEDOM ring –
For us…for me…
What does FREEDOM mean?
FREEDOM means life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all –
Except those who fall…
For a portion of their lives behind the proverbial wall –
Then it becomes U.S. vs. “y’all”.
Take away my name, and expect me to respond to whatever I’m called…like a dog.
A lost cause?
Naw! Because even though the Beast clamped me in its jaws, I refuse to sit –
And rot in the belly of this Beast – only to come out the other end as a piece of s#it.
FREEDOM is a state of being, a new way of seeing –
Me, myself, and I…
And why –
I am…strong enough to defy the gravity of a few lines –
Describing a crime that fails to define;
How my diligent effort over time has refined my state of mind.
Forged by solitude and deep depression –
…and a want to do better…
Self-reflection, honest introspection, inspecting
Every corner and crevice of my attic
Longing to be more than some recovering drug addict –
Who had it all but took it for granted.
See, when I was out there on the street
I still wasn’t FREE –
Because I tried to snort every line of coke and smoke every tree –
Trying to flee to any retreat I believed would get me…
Away from … me.
For the only reality I could see appeared to be –
A dead E-N-D.
So I craved to be released…
Only to find that true FREEDOM does not begin –
On the outside, but starts from from within.
FREEDOM means being strong enough to take a stance and give/
Yourself a chance to live.
Redemption can only be found in the most unusual places/
Through the most unlikely of cases –
Change is inevitable, so I choose embrace it/
And whatever is sacrificed for the sake of growth, I realize something better will always replace it.
No more bondage, no more oppression/
No more stinkin’ thinkin’, or penned-up aggression/
No more need for me to remain in the custody of a department who doesn’t know a damn thing about corrections.
FREEDOM means being able to enjoy the best things in life/
FREE at home with my children and my wife/
With no extra hype or unwarranted stereotypes.
FREE to move throughout the country from state to state –
FREE to breathe fresh air without having to wait.
Speaking of ‘weight’, FREEDOM is the boss of the bench press –
Because FREEDOM is strong enough to lift the weight of oppression from my chest.
So I can finally rest without having to stress/
About what unknown personality will be my bunkee next?

Tyro Imhotep Na’Mapenzi
(T. Terry) #1139218
Baskerville Correctional Center

Oppressing the Already Oppressed

I’d like to start this with addressing each one of the promo questions as my spring entry! it will be my completely biased opinions.

For starters, when it comes to “Political Skepticism” I’m personally effected by this tendency. Personally, on a year-to-year basis or four-by-4 basis, when it comes to the presidential election, I feel completely left out ever since I lost my voting rights in 2015. It’s almost as if part of my citizenship was taken away, regardless of the fact that I still pay taxes, love my country, and even stand behind “some” of her systems. I’m only subjected to a few of the beautiful things she has to offer her normal citizens. That is one thing that makes me “Politically Skeptical,” because all politics are supposed to be for the people of her country! Am I not a person of this country? This could lead to the touchy topic of the 13th amendment and the 3/5th laws. but that’s a latter discussion.

When it comes to Glenn Youngkin’s move to take away automatic expungement without letting the people of the Commonwealth know, seems to me to look like another way to oppress the already oppressed. Or in other terms, keeping people down who are already down for mistakes made when they were younger. And refusing to ever give them another shot at the beautiful thing America calls “freedom.” It is really sad how it keeps his pockets fat from receiving funds from the federal government for housing state inmates.
Not being able to vote myself, I’d like to eventually have my voting rights restored so my little ripple can turn into waves in America’s lake.

In the meantime I can help further educate people who are able to currently vote and getting the severity of the matter through to them. Whether they are 18 or 80, they’re needed for a better future! This would be my way of getting involved, even know I’m not fully able to participate.

Finally, America would truly benefit from knowing what she wanted if every citizen was able to vote!

Thank you for your patience, and your time is greatly appreciated as well!

Jaime Reinard
Harrisonburg, VA

What Would FREEDOM Look Like If I Was Able to Vote?

I am one out of thousands in the Department of Corrections that’s convicted of a Felony.
I am one out of thousands ineligible to vote in the upcoming election.
I am one out of thousands who believes that all votes matter.
I’m just one….

We took action during the General Assembly and educated our families on Senate Bills and House Bills that could give us the opportunity to gain our FREEDOM back. Bills such as Second Look, Parole, Earned Sentence Credit, Fish back, Juvenile Parole and Geriatric.

We encouraged our families to let their voices be heard and show up in support at the Virginia Prison Justice Network rally, Second Look Lobby Day and to contact Delegates like Don Scott, Marcus Simon, Vivian Watts, James Leftwich and the list goes on.

We stood with 40 Strong, Sistas in Prison Reform, ACLU, Humanization Project, Nolef Turns and Coalition For Justice in solidarity at Monroe Park. Not only did our families have the opportunity to let the years and decades of missing us be felt through their expressed words, Democrats and Republicans were able to see the faces of the ones who care for us dearly. Our families presence, emails, letters and voices roared for us and left a mark. They now know that we matter and that our families are standing with us in this FREEDOM fight.

This FREEDOM fight to be able to vote….

This FREEDOM fight to be able to be free….

This FREEDOM fight to be able to be looked at as a civilized human being, instead of the felonies that come across the screen when they type in our names along with that seven digit number that belongs to the state.

This FREEDOM fight to be able to feel the impact from thousands of convicted felons if we were eligible to vote, be successful in filling the one hundred seats up for reelection in the Virginia House of Representatives, with legislators who believe that bills need to be voted in to give a mass amount who have earned it, another chance at FREEDOM.

This FREEDOM fight just to be able….

I am one out of thousands who knows what FREEDOM will look like to me.


FREEDOM will allow me to be there physically as that male model for my sons and daughters.
FREEDOM will allow me to be able to encourage my daughter that she is as smart as any teenager in her school.
FREEDOM will allow me to be there to show my sons that its so much more to them and to be who they dream to be.
FREEDOM will allow me to be able to walk with my daughter on campus and listen to her tell me about her major.
FREEDOM will give me the opportunity to show that I’m far from that young man that walked through those revolving doors.

FREEDOM will allow me to be able to show I’ve grown and that Yusef Hasan Sykes Sr., from Newport News, Virginia has become a writer for Prison Journalism Project, the author of Caught Up, Belly of The Beast(Being Revised), Soulmates Aishah & Muhammad, Recovery, NASEERF on Amazon, a writer in the Virginia Techs Center for Humanities Unlocked Vol.2 Winter 2023 journal on Amazon, a two time graduate from Stratford Career Institute in Plumbing and Creative Writing and the list goes on.

June 11th will mark 17 years that I’ve been incarcerated and over the time I’ve learned that change doesn’t happen overnight, but as long as we stand in solidarity together and remain relentless, we can’t be denied.
When the General Assembly met early this year we sent emails and made phone to our families to inform them about the bills being raised and events to attend. When the General Assembly met early this year we wrote, The Governor, Lt. Governor, Delegates and Republicans in support of bills being raised. Our efforts and our family’s efforts made a difference, but we still have a long way to go. This November, we have to put even more effort towards filling the one hundred seats in the Virginia House of Representatives. Families have to be contacted to inform them about the ones going up to be elected and about the rally’s during that time. We can’t wait until November, we have to start now. When the General Assembly met, I was relentless and I will continue to be relentless and encourage my family members to vote and let their voices continue to be heard.

In solidarity, we stand with Brilliance Behind Bars….

Yusef Hasan Sykes Sr.
Freedom Fighter
River North Correctional Center, #1199406

Taxation Without Representation

Formerly Incarcerated Citizens and Civil / Political Disability

By Danny Ray Thomas

When returning citizens reenter society, probation and parole expects us to immediately find employment and begin the process of developing as productive citizens. Our paychecks have the same withholdings just as anyone else in the workforce. By April 15th of every year, we’re required to have our taxes filed, and if we’re lucky we’ll get a refund. In other instances, we’re told we owe money or funds are withheld for child support or other debts the state or federal government have made claims to.

What has always concerned me is the fact that we can be taxed as anyone else without restoration, yet we cannot vote without permission. Our tax dollars will assist in funding schools and first responders, ironically our tax dollars also pay the probation officer who’ll violate us and send us back to prison where our taxes will also pay the corrections officers and prison officials who’ll stand watch over us.

Well after incarcerated citizens complete their sentence, we remain “civilly disabled.” Why is it that we lose the right to determine which legislators and other politicians determine what’s best for the communities we live in? This is clearly “retribution,” which is considered one of the (4) four goals of incarceration, the other three being, societal protection, deterrence, and punishment. In some instances, the Courts have referenced “rehabilitation” as a fifth, but refuting that fallacy would be encyclopedic in length.

In any event, we remain “civiliter mortuus” (civilly dead) to the state which not only impacts our right to vote on the local level. Clearly this makes no sense. Again, we don’t have to prove ourselves to pay taxes yet we must do so to vote. I’d love to hear Governor Youngkin’s answer to this question; better yet, I’d like to be a fly on the wall when he’s discussing this issue behind closed doors!

Governor Youngkin is empowered to remove what the Courts refer to as “political disabilities,” but not all rights lost as a result of a felony conviction, for instance, the jurisdiction to restore firearm rights lost in those circumstances is vested in the circuit court. The Virginia Constitution allows the Governor of Virginia to individually restore political rights of convicted felons without judicial review, see the
Va. Constitution article V, section 12.

Restoration of the right to vote, hold public office, to serve on a jury, or be notary public does not constitute an inherent danger to public safety or does it? Maybe this is true for those in power that realize the power of the formerly incarcerated citizen.We all know that old addage “givem an inch they’ll take a mile!

Today we’ll vote, tomorrow we’ll serve on a jury, the day after we’ll hold public office. Neither aspiration of serving on a jury or holding public office can occur without the initial ability to vote. If they nullify our ability to vote, they also nullify our ability to have a direct impact on the system. It’s obvious which side of the aisle the ‘formerly incarcerated citizen’ stands on, can someone say “Progressive!”

In 2016, Governor Terry McAullife used his executive power to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 former prisoners in response to campaigns to end felony disenfranchisement. “I remain committed to moving past our Commonwealth’s history of injustice to embrace an honest process for restoring the rights of our citizens,” the governor said.”The struggle for civil rights has always been a long and difficult journey but the fight goes on.Unfortunately, republicans challenged the Governor’s executive order to The Virginia Supreme Court and the court determined that Governor McAuliffe did not have the authority to restore these rights without an individual application by each petitioner. Howell v. McAullife , 292 Va. 320.

The opposition to the restoration of voting rights to the formerly incarcerated has created an attitude of pessimism and defeat in many. My message to them is simple, “If voting doesn’t matter, why do they fight so hard to keep you from participating in the process?”

In Struggle,
D Ray Thomas, Green Rock Correctional, #1054249

My name is Danny Ray Thomas and I’ve been incarcerated for 21 years. I am from Pittsylvania county just outside of Danville, Va. I currently reside at Green Rock Correctional and I work as the Treatment aide. I work with counselors teaching anger management, thinking for a change, victim impact and ready to work.I am an activist and mentor in this community of men. I’m not one who’d shy away from the struggle we face, instead I embrace it. I’ve written for the “unlocked project,” a collaboration between the Coalition for Justice and Virginia Tech. I’ve also written for NYU ‘s review of law and social change publication called “The Harbinger,” my piece with them is called “The Calamity of Sentencing in Virginia” which can be found at am also a part of NYU’s “Jailhouse Lawyer’s Initiative. Needless to say I am a student of this movement against mass incarceration and I look forwarded to collaborating with anyone who feels the same as I do.

The Loudest Voice is Our Vote

While sitting in the Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in longhand his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Within this letter, he stated how he couldn’t sit idly by in Atlanta, his home state, and not be concerned about what was happening in Birmingham. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

In my 23 years of incarceration, I live with the direct result of an injustices I created. This injustice is now effecting me and many others and that injustice is: “NOT VOTING.”

In November of 1994, my late father-in-law warned me of not voting. It was during this time that Mr. George Allen was campaigning for governor. His campaign was fueled by the ‘tough on crime’ mantra, with the abolishing of parole as the prize for electing him as governor. I never paid much attention. And to be honest I really didn’t care. Never in a million years did I think that abolishing parole would become like a modern day genocide.

I know that crime must be dealt with, and we all want a safe society. However, many make mistakes, are remorseful and seek rehabilitation to become a better person.

Now in 2023, I find myself facing a very lengthy prison sentence, without the possibility of parole. During these past 20 years, I have met many individuals, some guilty, and a few not guilty. I’ve also met many who, through the rehabilitative process are better and different people today. But the majority of us continue to find ourselves at the mercy of the governor to one day enjoy the freedom that we took for granted and forfeited.

I didn’t vote in 1994, the following year (1995), he fulfilled his promise and abolished parole in Virginia. I’m living in the results of not voting. Many think that my one vote doesn’t matter, just think in a small town, someone won a school board seat winning 3 to 2. Voting matters from our local elections to the highest elections. Voting is actually your voice!!

I lost my right to vote; now, I try to inspire others to vote. I speak to inmates often telling them to encourage their family to vote. Yes, we’ve lost our rights to vote. But think if each of the 37,000 plus inmates in Virginia would inspire 10 people to vote, that would be would be 370,000 votes cast. Yes, it would be in different districts, but I promise you this would make a difference.

So inspire your family and friends to vote. When they ask if they can help, say yes, Vote!! Also tell them to get in touch with their elected officials, from their local representative (senate and delegate) to your national (senate and delegate) prior to elections. If these elected officials will not return your email, letter, or call, then thats a blatant example of them not EARNING your vote.

It’s time that they realize that our votes must not be taken for granted but must be earned.
Let them know what issues effect you and your community. These elected officials are there because of you and for you.

It’s time that we stop being “Democrats, Independent or Republican.” We are humans with a voice, and the loudest voice is our VOTE. It’s time that they stop taking us for granted. Many have gone before us before us, oftentimes being jailed and treated harshly for wanting to vote. We no longer have to count the “jelly beans” in jar. We just have to register. Pass on the importance of voting on to your kids.

To my fellow ex offenders, vote for us! Make getting your rights restored a priority. Speak out for change.
Its time that we stop giving away what many others earned through their blood, sweat, tears and some death.

Many died for us to have the right to vote, don’t give it away, because this injustice is a threat to justice everywhere.

Samuel E Harris #1026738
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Suffolk, Virginia

(Sam) a successful car salesman in the Tidewater Area who suffered an accident while in service to his country and later diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but later denied treatment due to bureaucratic red-tape, caused him to self-medicate and lead to his incarceration for robbery with a 220 year sentence, with 60 to serve. In spite of his situation of incarceration, he has used the last 23 years to rehabilitate and become the devout man of God he is, that has served others through the positions and platforms he’s held within prison. He’s also co-authored several books :”Beyond The Shackles” and ” Speaking Out for Change” as well as authoring his own book ” A Double Minded Man” soon to be released. He can be contacted via US mail or email @ Samuel E Harris #1026738

Many Small Particles

First of all thank you guys for giving my thoughts a voice box!! All too often, thoughts and ideas, dreams, and/or aspirations are severed due to the inability of us with them to have an outlet or audience to express them to!!! So thank you!!!

My quote has a small background in that I’ve currently been incarcerated for 27 years straight and counting!! And in 2000, while in longterm segregation at Red Onion State Prison of which I did 3 years 10 months and 17 days straight of “HOLE” time, I was studying Marcus Garvey, (my personal idol) and in his book he said: “We are but small particles, and it takes many small particles to make up a unit, and many more units to make up a WHOLE!!!”

Meaning, we are but parts and pieces that has to be brought together to make up a whole, and even when brought together, we still have to be adhesive enough to actually grow and bond in order for it/us to work!!! We as a people always find ourselves looking at what we don’t have in common and how different we are and we use that as our guides to discredit or to reject others instead of focusing in on what we want to achieve and how our different ideas and methods or approaches can be of a greater benefit!!! We all too often say the same thing but say it different!!! We can be so much more powerful, we can be so much more effective if we allow our differences to be the magnetic force that pulls us together, instead of being the thing that drives us apart!!!

The American Mafia did more with less! They made billions of dollars with far less people, than say for instance these modern day gangs whose numbers are in the 100,000 whilst collectively they don’t have a million dollars!!! The economic freedoms and opportunities that are ever present today literally have paved roads to success should we take the proper steps!!! But with ignorance, unbalanced preconceived notions we trip ourselves up and those that can or are in a position to help aren’t even given a chance when we snatch the rug from under foot “just because” all too often, we let what separates us guide us and when wonder why we can’t progress!!! We are all survivalists, but we can stand a better chance to NOT only survive but succeed in any endeavor should we look to each other and look at each other as supports rather than adversarial pieces that hinder us.

We can be as different as we naturally are but have the same common goals, objectives, methods, etc… without ever having to sacrifice who and what we are! People with shared ideas/dreams have a higher probability to succeed working with others rather than going at it alone!! Fighting for freedom which a lot of guys imprisoned typically do realize pretty quickly that outside of placing oneself in the vicinity of a crime that fighting for freedom with poor representation does NOT hold well!!! So why do we represent ourselves so poorly????

We sit back and allow others (strangers even) to represent US based off of whatever information/lies/disillusionment that we feed them instead of caring enough to educate ourselves to a point where we stand up and fight for ourselves!!! Every day we wake up to is another unique opportunity to do better than the day before, it can be a day to learn more than the day before, but more than anything everyday we wake up we should always challenge ourselves to do more than the day before!!!!

Most people find weakness in working together, or feel weakened by it!!! It sounds crazy but its the raw truth!!!! When I read the quote from Marcus Garvey, I realized that alone I am small and almost insignificant, but put with the rest of Hashems’ (God’s) creation I become significant and relevant which carries over to those around me and to those who share in my plight, to those who share in my pain,I implore you to now share in my effort!!!

Abraham didn’t know that through His progression that He would advance from Abram and Moses asked God, “Why me for I am slow of speech?” Hashem (God) said, “Go!!! I will be your words!!” We are living in our predestined paths all of which God has chosen specifically for us!!! But we must know that the world spins whether we witness it or not and its our egos and self doubt that holds us back and our circumstances derive from OUR thoughts!!!

In order to rise, we must stand!!! Alone we are small and together we are strong it takes us all and if my insecurities make it hard for me to stand up, will you please give me a hand or boost????!!! Your helping hand and your time and your ears are what gives me the confidence to face myself and the inner changes that I need to make to rise above my past and current circumstances to be lifted to a higher place and peace of mind!!!! Let the God in me commune with the God in you!!! That simple truth can break down so many barriers, walls, prejudices, etc!!!

It takes many units to make up a whole, which means it takes us all!

Yours Truly,
Andrew Suspense, B.K.A. Droopy
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Black America Inside Out ’23

Words from Q:
It has been 3 years since the team at set out to show the world that there are living, breathing, intelligent men and women incarcerated and worthy of a voice.

In this short time, Brilliance has gained a multitude of incarcerated contributors spanning several prisons and correctional centers across Virginia. Brilliance has continued to provide a unique platform for incarcerated voices to sound off on current events affecting their lives and the lives of their families. We have even gained the attention of several Virginia state legislators! To top it all off, a group of our contributors have been actually able to meet with state officials!

Brilliance continues to build with the hearts and minds of the incarcerated at its center. We are being noticed. We are being heard. We are here because of all the work of our team and incarcerated contributors. I’m proud of what our community has been able to accomplish, but the struggle never stops, so neither can we. Let’s keep it going!

Please continue to encourage your loved ones to get active and support the efforts of our freedom fighters who keep our voices and faces front and center of the media, the public, and VA lawmakers. They ensure that we are not forgotten…

Continue to spread the love for your fellow incarcerated. None of us want to be here, but since we have to, let’s be creative, constructive, and uplifting. Do the time, don’t let the time do you.

I have great love for all of you and your families.

Love, Light, and Godspeed,

BlackAmericaInsideOut ’23 Assignment – 3rd Year

Participants are asked to take a quote from a prominent Black American figure, past or present, and write a short essay, compose a poem, or any type of written creative work explaining what that quote means to you and its relevance to our current situation in this country…

Remember: Add your name, number, and where you are from. People may see your submissions, so let em’ know who you are.

Re-Slaving America (Make America Great Again!?)

It’s a horrible sign that the country of America might actually be going backwards– towards the wrong direction… was this what was meant by the 2016 dog whistle calls to ” Make America Great Again”…?

Five states, here in America, are putting a rather interesting bill on their ballots this midterm election season… Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oregon, and Vermont are all trying to reintroduce “forced labor” back into the American penal system. This situation makes this month’s Brilliance writing prompt somewhat prophetic…

“Am I incarcerated for profit?” (Brilliance writing prompt for October 2022) detailed the very gruesome history of the many insidious ways the powers of this country have exploited the American justice system and configured it into a racist pitfall (a “black hole”). All of this, in an effort to re-enslave black people, subjugate American minorities, and further the seemingly impenetrable grip racism has on this country…

Maybe the powers are going to decided to use the cover of a poor post-covid economy to bolster the need for slavery in prisons? They’ve already put forth the footwork for the past four years and successfully weaponized a fringe base of poor, white people, armed and even ready to storm the capital — maybe in hopes of taking the country “back” to “make it great again?” It is easy to accept the state of the economy as broken or unfit by those privileged but in poverty. But to those who have aligned such privilege with financial success and are now in want more, pointing them in the directions of the prison system as a means for their salvation is a welcomed fix.

Maybe the minimal headway made on social justice reforms leaves most with an unmerited sense of self satisfaction? So much that they aren’t even the least dissuaded to publicly disregard the mental wellness of Black Americans by resurrecting their most critical of traumas.

I hate that the connotation of capitalism can be justifiably understood to mean: at times we sacrifice long term mental anguish in hopes of short term monetary gains. and in a democracy like ours, this expense tends to always fall on the minority.

Why is forced labor in prisons an issue of race?

Well regardless of what our leaders are touting as true social justice reforms, the dramatic disparities in incarceration rates are still very well alive and thriving. the emphasis on racial justice, these past two years, has barely put a scratch on the issue of unfair treatment between minorities and the penal system. Black Americans still greatly outpace white ones in America’s prison population. And as described in the latest Brilliance prompt, the current state we are foregoing in this country concerning Black Americans and prison was deliberate in its design.

Given the recent events taking place within the Alabama prison system– where the incarcerated there are demonstrating a work stoppage in protest of inhumane living conditions and unfair treatment by the Alabama justice system, the fact that Alabama is amongst the states considering forced labor is nothing other than a symbol of its stern unwillingness to consider to the pleas of its prisoners. A bold statement that power is in no need of a heart nor soul. It only needs lives to stand over…

My hopes are that these aversive proposals to enslave prisoners do not go further than just racist propaganda, designed to motivate alt-right fringe voters to the polls.

If this horrible, racist. vision does manage to make it to fruition, my hope then is that the human soul that will forever fight for equality and justice, beats loudly throughout all the hearts of the oppressed and imprisoned, and that of all of their allies, and stands in opposition of such travesty…

Continue to fight for righteousness, because it is not freely given. We are all the children of freedom and it is our birthright to be free…

Love, peace, and power,

Q. Patterson