by Fox Rich
There is no such thing as too much time in Louisiana, which might partially be the reason we have the highest rate of incarceration in the whole world.
This reality was compounded by the fact that one of our leaders this month publicly suggested we even keep the good ones behind bars because they are needed to keep the prison doors open. Sadly, he is not alone.
I have watched frequent pardon board hearings where offenders who have lived the last 20 or 30 years with a perfect prison record, who have accomplished exceptional achievements and received recommendations for release from those who have monitored their behavior for decades, turned down because their release date is only seven years away. Really?
Understand this: My incarcerated loved one is more than a filled bed, more than your full-time free cook or mechanic. He is more than a check from the state to keep your profits rolling in.
My incarcerated loved one is a husband of 20 years, my high school sweetheart and best friend, a great father to our six sons with better parenting skills than me.
He is my business partner who helps me create new ways to move our small family business forward. He is a mentor to others coming into the system and returning home. He is a marriage counselor for other couples struggling to hold their families together during challenging life-altering experiences.
Bottom line, our incarcerated loved ones belong to their families and communities that love and value them — not to Louisiana's redeveloped slave system.
I do not know what kind of illness would permeate a man so deeply that he would desire to keep deserving citizens behind bars for his own personal gain. But I do know it is disgusting and inhumane and furthermore sounds very 1850s. Is this who we are? Have we not realized it was not right then and is not right now?
I am not a Catholic, but I must say that Pope Francis offered some pretty divine wisdom when he said, “A life sentence is just a death sentence in disguise.”
When we lock up human beings and don’t give them the least bit of hope for relief, but refuse to execute them, what we essentially do is even more inhumane — giving sentences so long they are simply death sentences concealed with numbers.
And our family is just one of the over 40,000 families suffering in silence under the inhuman conditions that our state's obsession with, and addiction to incarceration have created. An addiction that has led to the excessive, and extensive incarceration of too many “good” Louisiana families.
Sentenced to 60 years as first offenders in a crime where there were no injuries, our family has suffered for two decades now in the bowels of this acute slavery fetish our state possesses. Our incarceration alone has cost taxpayers half a million dollars to date, with the largest expense falling on our family’s loss of over 20 years, needlessly.
And for those who don’t believe 20 years is too much time for a property crime, I believe you might be the same soul smiling for the photo-op taken at a public hanging for the man accused of whistling at Mister's wife. A little soul searching might be needed.
Over the last 30 years, our culture has utilized any and every infringement of the law possible to permanently remove citizens from society (translation: to enslave) so that they, their families and taxpayers who buy into this fear-driven propaganda now permit money machines to fuel the system.
If we are “good” and the sheriff still won’t let us go, what are we being “good” for? Reminds me of a sign I read the other day that said, “Without justice, it is just a criminal system!” And remember, it was the criminal system of slavery that was responsible for taking this country into civil war.
(Fox Rich is a speaker, author and business owner who has been incarcerated herself. A Shreveport native, she now lives in New Orleans.)