Tag Archive : incarceration

/ incarceration

A Collaboration By: Tariq MaQbool SBI#000830758C; And
Kory “Hussain” McClary SBI#000573398C

COVID took my guy, six thirty in the mornin
My boy, my dude … died
Breathing hard, struggling
he gave up right there in that bed
Tubed up, cooped up, sippin
the Reaper’s tea
They diggin his grave, so that he may rest
My breathin’s heavy, like a rock on my chest

Shit jokers plan, dusk till dawn
mornin till night
never ever knowin
where the sickle might smite
Rollin through the life
as if a broken kite
Still,
this shit ain’t right
Gotta chill, let this slide
like every other bullshit in here
brotha just gotta fight
Need a break, a little mental like

“Yo, Hussain, you down wit this workout right?”

“Got this my brother, Yo Akhi, chill aight!”
“Let’s get to the ‘Graveyard’,
we just gotta get our mind right”

* * * * *

SPARRING in the Prison Big Yard
A Graveyard where gangstas are laid to rest
Shadow Boxing in a cemetery, full of tombless plots
Bobbing and weaving, side stepping and jabbing
The ghost that float above, excavate the Earth
The Earth to which they must return
but refuse to go
Ducking and hooking the air,
the air copiously filled with demons
The specter of a gangstas pass …

MOVE!

ROPE-A-DOPING on the side of a mausoleum
Maneuvering away from a zombie’s bite
The dead want a nigga, these evil forces tormentin
Wantin a nigga’s soul on site
to dwell in hell forever like
Mentally ducking,
wondering if the Mind’s Eye is
playing with reality,
Un-seeable?
Or is this total misery and wretchedness,
absolute and,
unchangeable???

MOVE!

JOGGING through the Graveyard where
the forgotten rest
Viewing the nameless headstones with trepidation,
beads across the forehead, shimmering cold sweat
The dissonant howl of a wolf fills the air
A Werewolf!
A translucent spirit flickers the peripheral sphere
it converges, quickly
Running from death, chasing the full moon
A rat’s skeleton scurries on spurs
A cat roars a shrieking purr
A black cat!
A woman’s grating scream comes from beneath the Earth

RAIN DROPS …

Terror grips the soul
Chills grab the flesh
A light jog turns into a heavy dash

SPLASH!

Death is whistling, Life is silent
A man draped in black hooded cloak, appears
seeming violent!
Grimm Reaper?
Final destination?
The precise truth remains elusive
Death shall remain, however, exclusive

MOVE!

JUMPING ROPE in a Graveyard
where real niggas are dead, but still
alive
Where Life means digging ya own grave,
and jumping on top of the headstone till Death
arrives
Where Life means forever, and Death is coveted
In this Graveyard, Life’s smell is putrid
and Death smells sweet
In here,
Life is Death or Death is Life
Life is jumping rope in front of ya plot,
until Death did y’all apart from your misery
Death is precious,
precise
and Life is a Groundhogs Day ball of anguish
But fuck it!
This is where the gangstas is at … a prison!

STOP!!!

* * * * *

Breathing heavy, sighs slowed to a cadence
“How you feelin?”
“Doin good my brother, though I’m still reelin”

Casting shadows in the Graveyard like
Brothers Grimm
Life got many avenues, but in here
they slim

Still gotta get to feelin normal
soon
Can’t be dealin with this impendin
doom
It’s getting darker …
Soon it will turn to
gloom
Still feelin heavy
Melancholy
Carryin a dead man’s tune!

* * * * *

“Come my brother,
you wit me?
Once more around this mothafucka!”

MOVE!

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Author: Kory “Hussain” McClary # 000573398C | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

“Hello” from the other side of the concrete and razor wire wall. A man is trapped behind the wall, calling out to anyone who is listening.

“Hello, hello, could you get me out of here.”

Man down, man in distress, castaway. A man’s life is slowly but surely slipping away while he is trapped behind this concrete and razor wire wall.

His ‘hellos’ are all met with echoes. It’s an empty vast canyon behind this wall where only the soulless dwell.

“Hello”, it seemed as if he was calling out to himself. This man did not want to become one of the lost souls forgotten about so he shouted his ‘hello’ from the others side of the wall loader.

“Hello”, but still only an echo.

This man wondered if anyone realized that there was a man snared behind this wall. Did anyone care that this man had loved ones to get home to. Little ones to guide. He had a mother to hug, a wife to love, sisters and brothers waiting to receive his brotherly smile. A father he needed to embrace and a mother he needed to kiss… .

“Hello”, he could hear the traffic promenading the other side of the wall. So he roared his ‘hello’. The response was only a roar of an echo.

He was being ignored and left to be what he dreaded, a soulless shell. Why? He was a man who made mistakes like those on the others side of the wall ignoring him.

He was sorry for his mistakes. Only if someone would listen and let him explain.

“Hello, hello, could you get me out of here.”

The man knew that the concrete and razor wire wall was impervious. Unclimbed, never to be breached, and the sole witness to his trap.

Only if he screamed louder, someone would have to answer him.

“Hello”, just another echo.

Too many screams turned this man voiceless. His calls caused him to be further entangled.

Muted!

No voice, so the man on the other side of the wall wrote. He wrote his pain in the form of an ‘SOS’; placed it in a bottle and threw it away over the concrete and razor wire wall. Somehow the bottle was returned undisturbed. The man refused to let his hope in humanity slip away. So he threw the bottle back over the concrete and razor wire wall.

Still there was no responses or help. The bottle was returned, note still intact. His ‘hello’ from the other side of the wall could not be reciprocated. His pen was broke.

Now the man cried. Tears of pain, shame, and remorse ran down his face.

His hands were cuffed behind his back, his legs were shackled. And his mouth was gagged. Only his tears flowed freely, allowing this man behind this wall in this barren place to know that he still had a soul. A soul that yearned to be free… .

“Hello!”

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Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

In recent days, the news around the country, once again, is filled with Corona Virus related issues. The obvious result of the pandemic taking space on the airwaves is reduced focus on the protests for social justice.

The death of Congressman John Lewis highlighted for me that the wheel of time turns without any hitch. The death of yet another stalwart of our social justice movement further stressed the importance of that special cause and the need for change now. It seems that we keep losing our Nation’s heroes without any actual progress. Truly, the days of Selma seem virtually unchanged in a lot of aspects of our culture.

In my humble opinion, the problem of taking the ‘eyes off the ball’ remains the main issue towards any required change.

The Black Lives Latter Movement, and others whom are protesting for systematic changes to our Criminal Justice System, Social Justice, and Policing Reforms seem disjointed and without structure.

Charles Barkley recently made rounds on the sports talk shows following a “Tweet” criticizing the ‘Protest Movement’ for being without organization and being too focused on simplistic and meaningless symbolism; and being bogged down with pointless arguments such as what ‘labels’ athletes place on their jerseys.

I submit that, the Hall of Fame Basketball player rightly criticized and tried to bring attention to the actual and real issues rather than just wordplay.

This ‘loosing of focus’ is becoming the hallmark of the recent Protest Movements where the message is getting lost due to ‘other’ unrelated issues. For example, Collin Kapernik’s taking the knee was hijacked by President Trump’s ‘dog whistle’ of being anti-flag, anti-American, and being un-patriotic. Kapernik himself muddled his message by being silent and seemingly without any strategy others than suing the NFL.

Charlottesville, Ferguson, and other similar protests were marred by ‘us v. them’ politics, violence, and pointless rhetoric that resulted in the status quo.

Even now, although the post George Floyd murders protests seem different, I submit, without proper national organization and strategy, there will be no results. With COVID-19 struggles and dirty politics, the goal of change appears more chaotic and unachievable.

In the same vein, the United States Supreme Court in recent days struck yet another blow to the requested and demanded change by ruling against a challenge to one more bias, racist, and unfair state voting law that disqualified ex offenders from voting. This ruling further highlighted the need to get together and to speak with one voice. Rather than random protests, center of attention should be on national unity and approach.

Where the highest ‘Halls of Justice’ seem to signal that the fundamental rights of an American citizen to vote are forfeited in perpetuity due to a simple run-in with the law, a clear message is sent that even the most basic of rights are not going to be afforded to a citizen, specially the one of a darker hue.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is akin to injustice in itself. Where a segment of society in this country is told that you are forever a subservient class! The decision has yet another dangerous precedent of Apartheid like reality for the minority of this country.

Thus, Charles Barkley’s Tweet and advice should be taken seriously by those who actually want change, reform, and a better just and equal tomorrow for all Americans regardless of their color and creed.

I would suggest and urge the Protest Movement all over the country to organize in State entities and focus on struggle and efforts that are particular to the need of each State in this Union.

Without such focus, the death of George Floyd and countless others and the resulting Movement will fizzle out. To make change, we must Organize, Strategize, and Implement!

Otherwise, it’s all for naught.

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Black Women

August 24, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Duane Kelly # 488959B | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Beautiful Black Women
Where shall I begin?

Intelligent, classy, and strong
Putting up with brothers for so very long

Inspirational, independent, and talented
Always to be appreciated, never to be taken for granted

Mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers
Always there, always supportive, holding families together

The center of Black Pride
Queens dignified, Diva personified

Single, married, and hardworking
Raising babies, loving wives
and still holding down good cooking

Soft, sensitive, and sexy
It’s a privilege and pleasure to have you next to me

Easily my better half
Making two into one, using the lovers’ math

My beautiful Black Women, out of all GOD’s creations,
We were made to last

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It’s Monday

August 18, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Raymond “Hamzah” Franklin # 860075B | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

It’s Monday. I know it’s Monday because Monday’s lunch is always hotdogs. And guess what was served today? Shriveled, barely boiled, pink with little hints of green…hotdogs.

I am not complaining; at least there was something to eat. However, using food to calculate the days and weeks really does a number on food selection – Sunday chicken, Monday hotdogs, Tuesday taco meat, Wednesday hamburger and potato puffs, Thursday casserole (that’s what They call it), Friday fish, and Saturday chili…I know the days of the week by what I’m eating, or what I’m not eating in most cases.

Speaking of not eating, breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day. But here in the International House of Prisons, breakfast is served during a one half-hour period only. If you miss it, you miss it. There is no going to get your breakfast if you have a medical appointment or some other matter of importance that just so happened to be scheduled during breakfast period. Once the thirty minutes are up, the extra food (enough to feed the city’s homeless) is bagged and donated to the prison’s rats. I’m not talking about the ‘Snitches who get the Stitches’, (or maybe I am); I mean the food, in all its enormity, is thrown away.

The officers, of course, get their split before the rats get to nibbling. Certain privilege holders – we’ll just call them ‘finks’ – get their fair share as well. But the bulk of what the kitchen puts out is almost automatically destined for the dumpster. On top of that, the prison will actually punish its wards for trying to eat it! I don’t get it. The prison feeds portions to grown men that won’t satisfy Orphan Annie or Oliver Twist; yet, the grown men are given infractions for trying to commandeer the food that the prison intended to throw away!

Why not leave the food on the line and allow the people – prisoners, officers, and staff – to eat from it all day? Treat it like a buffet. If the people have no other obligations, then they can go to the buffet line and eat!

Or why not start a food donation program? Gather some of the homeless from around the city and usher them into the mess hall. Have the prisoners seat and serve them. Let the prisoners give them an hour or two of humane treatment for once. Win-win for everybody…well, not everybody.

If the powers that be – the check writers – ever got wind that the prison was runnings a food donation drive for the homeless, the first thing the powers would do is lessen the food budget. They would claim that they have been allotting too much money for food just because there is enough food to give away after feeding the prisoners. They would rather throw it away due to greed than allow their wards to benefit or even allow the needy of the community to prosper even just a bit.

We are not talking about Cracker Barrel or Denny’s, or Old Country Buffet, or Outback Steakhouse, or Sonic, or 5 Guys Burgers and Fries, or Applebee’s, or T.G.I. Fridays, or Olive Garden, or any mom & pop, slime & slop pizza joint… we’re taking about prison food! – The morsels and crumbs that certain persons of society have deemed suitable for the non-desirables.

But, it’s nobody’s fault. After all, it’s Monday…hotdog day. Or Tuesday… taco day. Or Wednesday… burger and tots day. Or Thursday… mystery casserole day. Or Friday… fish day. Or Saturday… chili day. Or Sunday… chicken (yard bird) day. There is not enough food to donate to the homeless, but there is plenty to give to the rats.

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From A Fallen

August 14, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: P. Reid # 830759C | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Prison life is a serious thing – not just the circumcision from life, as we know it, but by the boundaries of how the entire family dynamic suffers a massive fracture by an individual’s incarceration.

We allow the pressure of society to cause us to deny love to the one who have fallen from grace by virtue of a crime committed.

Love me despite me…!

The struggles of the children of the incarcerated are never seen and their challenges, to achieve their goals despite the handicap of having their lives inverted, not by a selfish act of the parent governed by rules of oppression and degradation to levels not known by onlookers who can’t see beneath the undercurrent of modern day slavery.

The challenges of trying to parent from behind the wall takes a strong and virtuous individual who refuses to compromise of his or her values and principles that keeps perspective of who we are evident to those we are trying to instill morals as they persist to exist.

Covered in stereotype and societal bias as to being compared to the scum of the earth, even if the incarcerated is innocent and convicted by a system configured to keep the ‘machine’ oiled and continuous, it is also regardless of the need to fulfill the farce concept of justice.

Getting the assistance needed to regain freedom can be very trying at times. Those suited to power are those who have never sought it, and he who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.

Not being able to affect influence or change in the lives of loved ones wears at the soul of an individual who cares – gone but hopefully notable forgotten…

I have always given my truth to be ‘overstood’ that there are still good people left in this world of ‘Me Too’ and the ‘watch what I’m doing!’ Having the courage to live my way and striving to getting to a place where my respect for self and others leave me happy to be whom I want to be, even if I’m draped in Khaki and referred to by numbers.

We are told never to judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. But then, it doesn’t matter, ’cause you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!’ Besides, every man’s journey is not his own – but also those of whom his ties carry.

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Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Coronavirus marches on with time. Flipping the calendar today, I realized that on Friday, July 31st 2020, it will be our second Eid Holiday of the year.

In the Islamic calendar, there are only two main holidays. They are both called Eid. The first one, the smaller Eid, Eid-ul-Fitr to be specific, takes place after the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a month of fasting. The second Eid, the ‘Big Eid’, Eid-ul-Adha to be specific, takes place after the yearly Pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, called “Hajj”. A Pilgrimage that is one of the Five Fundamental Principals of Islam.

The Hajj ends with the sacrificial slaughtering of an animal according to the tradition of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). This tradition is a commonality between the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Although, there is a slight variation, where Muslims believe that Abraham was going to sacrifice his son Isma’eel (Ishmael), and the other two religious texts mention Ishaaq (Issac) as the chosen son.

I remember the Big Eid in Pakistan when I was a kid, the local custom was to buy an animal a month or two prior to the Eid day. That way the animal was domesticated and a bond developed between the family and the animal. So, in a way, sacrificing the beloved animal would be hard due to that affection; an obvious effort to mimic Abraham’s trial and anguish.

Among other fond memories of that time were the new tailored Eid clothes, food, visiting neighbors, family, friends, and hitting the bazaars of Lahore. But, more than anything, the receiving of ‘Eidy’ was the best, a particular tradition where the family elders would give money to the young.

For us kids, it was a happy time. And we had our favorite uncles, aunts, and cousins, whom were known to be more generous than those who were of a frugal temperament. You see, at that age the intricacies of who was well-to-do and who was not was not in our periphery.

Later on, in America, the Big Eid was a bit dull in comparison. Obviously, we couldn’t get a pet lamb, goat, or ox at home to raise and sacrifice on the Eid day. So, here in the “civilized” world, our family would either send money to Pakistan, to have a relative slaughter an animal and distribute the meat to the poor, or would buy an animal here at one of the local Islamic slaughter houses and get that very important part of the Big Eid over with.

But, we did keep other traditions alive. Such as, congregating for Eid prayer in one of the local mosques and then returning to dress up in new clothes; And then to start making the rounds from Long Island through Queens, and then to New Jersey to wish our family and friends an “Eid Mubarak”, Blessed Eid, greetings and to receive our Eidys.

I remember when some of our older cousins would make us laugh commenting in jest, regarding the need for everyone to become celibate due to the increase in the amount of children from year to year, which obviously affected their finances in paying Eidy.

As I grew older and entered my 20s, it became a sensed of pride for me to give Eidy to those who were younger than me. I remember making prayer to be more successful the following years so that I could give more and be that favorite brother, cousin, and uncle. Unfortunately, that prayer was not answered by the All Mighty. So, I still make the same prayer, still hoping for a better tomorrow.

The food spread and conversations were the best part of our special day. There was serenity to it, a calmness that placed your body and soul at ease. In my opinion, having a religious holiday, rich with over a few millennia worth of history, somehow seems to mean much more than our made up holidays like birthdays, anniversaries, and other such frivolities.

Coming to prison jars the very core of your being. People say to, “watch out in here, cause ‘they’ will come for you. ” The truth is, ‘they’ don’t come for you, ‘they’ come for your soul! In this labyrinth of evil, you tend to lose the very things that make you human. Among those things, happiness tops the charts.

Anyhow, our Big Eid is usually a simple affair. A congregational prayer is followed by a few refreshments and then a prompt return to our cages.

On our housing units we prepare our meals together as brothers in faith to give some color to our bland canvas of merrymaking. But, eating is another thing. I don’t remember a single Eid behind bars where I didn’t just stare at the food after receiving it.

Without family, a man is lost. And I’ve been lost for a longtime now. But, with the Grace of GOD, almost every time, a Muslim brother’s helping nudge or remark would break my trance. Our eyes would meet and that mutual and shared pained look would be held for the briefest of moments and then we would simply nod and carry on.

Grown men don’t cry!

This year, COVID-19 has restricted our so-called festivities even further. No congregational prayers this time again. And also, once again, the prison kitchen would send an ‘Eid Food Tray’ prepared by select Muslim prisoners to everyone. That will be the extent of ‘official’ celebrations.

Nevertheless, as I said before, among us we shall create our own mirage of an Eid celebration. As always, I would surely retreat to my cell, placing my food on the metal table that is attached to metal sink and toilet, and then I would sit next to my ‘slit’ of a window to blankly stare outside, trying to picture my parents, brother, sister in law, and the two bundles of joy, my nephew and niece, among other family members and friends, feeling yet another episode of Eid Holiday Blues.

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Who Are You?

August 1, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | 1 Comment

Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

I don’t know what love is
Because, I know you
I don’t know its beginning or end
Because, I know you

I have experienced joy and happiness
Because, I know you
I have experienced heartache and sadness
Because, I know you

I know what it’s like to be alone
Because, I know you
I know what it’s like to have a companion
Because, I know you

I gaze the stars at night
Because, I know you
I travel the Galaxy
Because, I know you

My days turn to nights, and nights to days
Because, I know you
My little circles of life, revolve
Because, I know you

Sometimes, my heart quickens
Because, I know you
Often times, it simply flutters
Because, I know you

I have a longing and sense of belonging
Because, I know you
I am stranded and rather abandoned
Because, I know you

I follow Halos in mist filled nights
Because, I know you
I wander halls and search cloudy rooms
Because, I know you

I roam lofted pathways surrounded by gardens
Because, I know you
I follow footprints on grass sparkling with morning dew
Because, I know you

I see apparitions running among rows of roses
Because, I know you
I chase shadows under gilded canopies and verandas
Because, I know you

I can smell dandelions
Because, I know you
I see a horizon twinkling with fireflies
Because, I know you

I feel locks of velvet upon my face
Because, I know you
I can feel a breath warm on my neck
Because, I know you

I feel my lips often tingling
Because, I know you
I can taste peaches and strawberries
Because, I know you

This unending episode continues
Because, I know you
I wonder if it’s everlasting or forever withering
Because, I know you

I am familiar with your curves and silhouette
But,
I’ve replaced a thousand pictures it seems
To imagine your face
Because, really…
I don’t know you!

For a long while, a lifetime perhaps
I’ve been searching, I think…
Because, I thought…
I knew you

Yet, I am always left wondering
Because really…
Who are you?

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Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

“Personal Protective Equipment” (PPE), it’s a term I have come to know well while watching Governor Murphy, and Cuomo, on the TV screen almost everyday. In this time of chaos in our country, both of them seem to present a calming and mature handle at the helm. And with the travesty at the federal level, our local leadership is something to be proud of.

Yet, I was taken aback when Gov. Murphy stated that he had reached out to the Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Ping, in order to procure PPE from China. The thing that bothers me to no end is that leaving the ventilators issue aside, why is it so hard to produce simple PPE for the doctors, nurses and first responders? It seems a simple enough task.

Moreover, my family and friends also informed me that there are lots of folks online who are showing people to make their own masks, and other protective gear. So, why do our leaders have to go to China?

At the end, PPE consists of plastic, elastic, and a bit of sewing. So, I have to ask this much, what is the purpose of having the most sophisticated and advanced country in the world when we can’t even manage to manufacture something as basic.

Speaking about purpose, it got me thinking….

Way back in 2005, after a two and a half year arduous stint in the county jail, when I arrived in New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), life was very different. Besides its notorious reputation and other associated stories of horror, I found NJSP to be quite unpretentious. There were obvious lines that were drawn among this captive society and the prison life had its predictable ebbs and flow. This in turn, kept the cogs turning so to speak. What I am trying to convey, in non-prisoner layman’s terms, is that the wheel of life turned smoothly because it had a mundane but an extremely important purpose: Work!

I don’t know what it is about work and men? Perhaps it’s in our genes that provides an urge to be productive. In those days everyone’s life revolved around their “work detail”. There were food service guys, brothers who worked in the school and law library areas. Others worked the sanitation details. There were chaplaincy, and vocational school clerks. There was also a large “ice-room detail” in addition to laundry department workers etc.

More importantly, NJSP had a sewing shop, a knit shop, also electric, plumbing, welding, upholstery and other services available for prisoners to hone their crafts. There was a paint shop with artists of such caliber that would have made a Renaissance painter proud. They painted such elaborate life-like murals that NJSP became famous for it.

The work details provided a purpose, a focal point for the lifers and long term prisoners to find some sort of meaning in their complicated, yet humble lives. It provided, more than anything, a compromise for a human being to, well, being human. Being useful and of substance, providing a trace of pride.

I remember this older brother. He would often come to the mess-hall, located in the older part of NJSP, the West Compound, and look for me. I am not going to use his name. I don’t know if I have the right to do so. You see, he has been gone for a while now, finally resting in his final abode. All I will share is that he was an older Muslim brother from the South. He had a southern charm and this smile that would put all your worries away, a sincerity that is missing in this world, the genuine type. He worked in the shops area and would bring me boot laces, knit hats, new socks etc. It don’t know how many pairs of socks or laces he brought, but I couldn’t say no to him. And it wasn’t just me; he did that for every person in the prison. Not just us Muslims, he was equally gracious to all.

He would say, “Tariq, man have you seen them lil kids on TV? They be shivering in that cold, and walking bare feet in that desert there! I wish I could send some boots, socks, and hats to them babies, man”.

“There are a lot of kids who need that stuff brother, you are going to be a busy cat if you go on that route,” I would answer playfully, knowing well that he would do that and more if he only had a chance.

“Can’t give up on them babies Tariq, they need help. We gots to help’um when it’s needed. Otherwise, we ain’t no better. We gonna go see the All Mighty one day, I don’t know about everyone else, I need ALL the help I can get for the Day of Judgment. Gots to stack them good deeds brother.” He would then flash that smile, leaving me speechless. It seemed his whole goal was to help and be of service to others. It was who he was, not what he was here for.

Then like all good things, the work details were eliminated. The New Jersey Department of Corrections, NJDOC, finally realized that there was no more need to pretend. The public didn’t care and with the type of sentencing scheme the State of New Jersey was following, well, it didn’t require adherence to the “Corrections” farce. With mandatory minimum sentences, no one was given any work or ‘good time’ credits towards their sentences. Basically, no one was going anywhere, at least not in this lifetime. So, all shops and technical job details were removed and the prison authorities, in quite an unabashed fashion, embraced and promulgated the notion that they were actually in the business of “warehousing” human beings rather than the nonsensical and unprofitable idea of rehabilitation. And just like that, over a thousand men in NJSP became idle.

When a man’s’light’ goes off there is an actual physical affect that becomes apparent. In case of that older Muslim brother, he immediately seemed to sour. More often, I would be holding him back from arguing with someone in the mess-hall where he once brightened the entire area with his smile.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me Tariq,” he once said after I forced him to sit down and glared the other person he was arguing with. “I ain’t got no job, what am I supposed to do now? Can’t just sit in my cell stare at them walls brother,” he mumbled as if he was daydreaming, looking somewhere beyond. In response, I gave him my readymade reply about being patient. And he just showed me a sad hint of his famous smile.

You guys know that saying, “Get busy living, and get busy dying””, from that movie “Shawshank Redemption”… right? Now, I don’t know if you all know what a man looks like when he starts to dissolve.

I do.

I saw my kind old friend crumble in short episodes….

Today, sitting here in my cell watching Gov. Murphy talk about obtaining PPE from China, I thought of my friend. And I thought of all of my other friends sitting idle in small cramped spaces, staring at the walls worrying about their families outside, wishing they could do something to help.

I wanted to scream and tell our Governor that we can do that work and we are willing to grind. Be part of that fight, a fight which we all supposedly are in together.

I would like to tell our Governor, Murphy, that there are men here who can work the sewing and knitting shops to produce protective gear. PPE, it’s just plastic, elastic, and maybe rubber. Not something that can be labeled as a security issue.

There are men here that would volunteer and work hard, and would do everything in their power to earn some chance at redemption, a chance to be part of the whole, a society, a state, a people.

If only given an opportunity, they would work to find solace, meaning, and yes, even purpose.

Give us a chance Governor Murphy, I promise you that we will not let you down!

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Remember The Time

June 17, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Robinson “San-man” Santise
Incarcerated writer SBI: #TMP/1000271 PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625

Remember when we first met?
Remember when I first laid eyes
upon you and I smiled?
Remember when my thoughts of you
inspired creativity?
Remember when there was nothing
capable of separating us?
Remember when We meant Us, not
just United as States but
recognizing and understanding our
united fate?
Learning and getting to
know one another
So beautiful, so strong…
However
I don’t remember the Time
The lack of oxygen to my brain
is suffocating my condition
a Black man;
Sick…
Unemployed – Economically ill
Heart disease, diabetes – Physically I’ll
Under educated, imprisonment – Spiritually ill
There are
all types of viruses constantly
attacking this Hued Man’s condition
Tired…
of being afraid of being
of carrying the burden of
someone else’s inadequacies
of struggling for each and every
breath of my existence
This is the Time of remembering, so that
we may never forget that we have the
capacity to amplify the strength and
beauty of human condition by
being the shared experience of life

And I would like to thank the agents of
oppression for taking your boot off of our
necks and replacing it with your knee
for a more violent death
Because within
the violent throes of death, the United
movement of life is born
So please
Remember the Time…
when humanity inhaled its collective breath
We ain’t asking no more!

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