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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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(Unedited version, the Edited piece is on medium)

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

Prison is a cynical place in general. I guess over time, being crushed, chewed, and mauled by the system that professes to be the best Judicial System in the world, the inhabitants of a place like this’keep’ grow as sardonic. I remember coming to New Jersey State Prison with lot of baggage, a chip on the shoulder so to speak. Loosing trial with the most circumstantial of evidence was still a shock to my system. To tell you the truth, in my naveté, I really chalked it up as an anomaly. I STILL believed in the system.

Yet, I remember so many of the older prisoners in here who after hearing my summarized version of events, would often display a particular sad smile. They would then nod knowingly and pat my back and walk away, leaving me slightly confused and annoyed.

“What the hell was that all about,” I would often mutter under breath.

Then, over the years, Time taught me the reality of the system.

But, not everything, I am still naive it seems. I thought I knew it all by now. I thought that I had the comprehension. I thought I understood the subtleties, the racism, the bigotry, the failures, and injustices of the failed System of Justice.

But, even now, today, I learnt that I don’t know anything.

Georg Floyd’s MURDER changed everything. I sat there with emotions that I can’t convey with words. Because watching that man getting killed invoked passions of vengeance, which any ethnic Pakistani, Afghan, or a man from the Middle-East would feel.

However, the realization came quickly this time, with a bit of shame and a lot of regret. As a Pakistani American, I had figured that I understood racism. Especially post 9-11; I faced my share of issues with bigotry and discrimination. I felt shame and regret because over the years I have had multiple conversations, debates, and arguments over races issues with many of my African American Muslim brothers, some of whom are in their late 70s. I always thought that I could present a cogent argument or could state a point of view, and more than often they would just stop arguing with me and give me that knowing nod and pat my back and walk away. Leaving me slightly annoyed and confused.

You see, watching that Police Officer, Chauvin, pin his knee deeper into George Floyd’s neck with his hands in his pockets, opened my eyes to the fact that I didn’t have the slightest of clue about discrimination, prejudice, and real racism.

So, as a grown and perhaps wiser man, I could only do the most honest of things as a person who is not Black, and that was to shut up, listen and to hear from those of my brothers who actually know what they are talking about.

After listening to a cacophony of voices from outside and inside I also realized that there is no real opportunity or forum for prisoners in here to add their voices. So, I came up with an idea.

I simply posed a question, “What were your feelings when you saw George Floyd getting murdered? Please share your views…”

What transpired next left me sitting stunned and speechless at 2:30am at night among a pile of submissions with a heavy heart and eyes filled with tears. You see, I had a complete different plan to tackle and address this subject, but, once again, it became abundantly clear that I just needed to be quiet:

ANTHONY PEOPLES: # 303892 / 137935-B

Title: ‘Please… I can’t breathe! Don’t kill me.”

I paused and held my breath as I watched the murder of Mr. George Floyd on my 13 inch television screen. I gasped in shock as former police officer Derek Chuavin in broad daylight, with all his body weight pressed his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on the neck of this already subdued young black man!

I cringed as Derek Chauvin, with his hands inserted into his pockets and a sinister look upon his face looked uncaringly into the direction of the crowd while Mr. Floyd sadly and desperately called out for his mother!

I later found out that Mr. Floyd’s mother was deceased. His mother was gone, and yet he still called out for her with his last breaths.

A DAMN SHAME!

I witnessed a man get murdered by a police officer! My heart engulfed with so much sorrow for Mr. Floyd as I watched his life get snuffed out so unjustly! Anxiety began to set in and my heart quickened its pace! And for a few moments I found it difficult to breathe. I had to calm myself.

The same script continues to play out, just with different people. The same situations. The same outcomes. Many of these police officers who have taken an oath to “Protect and Serve” are using their authority to act out their true character and what they actually stand for. Always attempting to disguise and conceal their prejudices.

And, what of the many others who have been murdered unjustly? Some were recorded, some not. Why does it continue to be this pattern of murdering us black men and women, and other people of color by corrupt racist police?

What about all the people of color that have been and continue to be placed in these warehouses called prisons unjustly to serve outrageous sentences? Sentences that destroy families.

This is also another form of murder. Another form of having a knee pressed onto our necks! Another form of carrying out prejudices. Another form of destroying a race!

SHARIF BROCKINGTON-TORRES: SBI# 963206-E

Title: “We Will Breathe Again”

What were my feelings when I saw George Floyd getting murdered?

Hopelessness! The meaning of a lynching! The 400 years of lynching of my ancestors! Great, great, great, great, grandparents, my parents, myself, and my 13 years old son.

The lynching of my Nationality! I felt the realization of the generations that are still struggling to breathe today.

I can’t breathe!

I felt the tears from the whole of my soul to my eyelids, but there were no tears to come out. I wonder if I’m a ‘Georg Floyd’, or his son.

For the first time in my life I felt and learned the exact meaning of “Systemic Racism”, a plague that affects my whole body. The whole African Nationality.

I felt breathless, when my son asked if I saw what had happened, and why?

Silence.

I am unable to answer something that I wasn’t provided an answer for, an answer which my parents or their patents couldn’t provide.

I also felt the White man’s word “Nigger”! I felt the millions of footsteps behind. I felt the pain, depression, desperation, struggle, unrest, discrimination, inequality, denied loans, denied jobs, denied education; I also felt the silent voices of those whom yelled and pleaded, crying and fighting, and untold emotions, all mixed with mine.

I felt that and more, all due to a system that was designed against us. I FEEL the enslavement of “Blacks Only” of the Criminal Justice System. I FEEL being 3/5th of a human under the United States Constitution.

I felt the knee that was on the necks of my people and is still on our necks.

Still, I felt for help.

Then I felt hope. I heard the voices, saw my people around, and felt the strength of 401 years of still NOT broken. I could hear my son’s footsteps in the crowd of protest.

Hope!

Instead of people yelling and screaming they were roaring along. Not being heard but felt. Not only waking America, but the whole world. The meaning of hope, and holding on, pushing through.

I am proud to be Black! I felt us! I am power of black.

I felt, our black lives matter. Our black lives do matter.

I felt us! And we will breathe again!

___________________________

HAMZAH FRANKLIN aka “Snake Doc”

Title: “Fascinated”

I’m fascinated with law enforcement and the culture of military application. Both arenas filled with noble minded persons. So, I have no qualms with an officer and soldier who has been trained to go beyond what is necessary; I have a problem with the system that has trained them… not the people per se. The system needs to be overhauled – completely.

Think of the system as a computer. It won’t boot up because a floppy disk has been left in the drive. Once we discover the problem, we need to remove the disk. Then the computer will work again, but lingering problems are still affecting the computer. Now we have to Control, Alternate, Delete: Control are agendas; Alternate our course of action; and Delete the effects that have plagued the nation with inequality.

___________________________

KORY “HUSSAIN” McCLARY (Kory McClary.com)

When I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered my feelings were:

“Damn, they did the same thing to me!”

The stenographer put her knee in my neck when she doctored the transcripts on me

for her husband

This cell is smothering me…

I’ve been screaming: “I Can’t Breathe!”

Since it’s a white knee in my neck

They can’t hear me…

Her White word against my Black word

The Appellate Court said, Nigga you got

some nerve!

Appeal Denied!!!

They all Eric Garner’d, George Floyd’d me…

“I Can’t Breathe!”

_____________________________

“D” ANONYMOUS

“If it wasn’t on camera, no officer would have been charged!”

__________________________

“Z” ANONYMOUS

In short, I felt sad first, then very hurt. To see a man trying to get air, while calling out for his mother and just die was beyond all understanding.

And not to go into a very long statement about it, but it’s part of the reason many of us are in prison all over the country. Police lie, plant evidence, the Courts uphold unlawful convictions and we die in places like this.

But this is nothing new to me; I’ve seen this all my life. My question to you is what are (you) going to about unlawful mass incarceration???

This system is broken and no one cares. It’s all about the dollars. We’re products to you people for just having a job… That’s why you treat us the way you do. I’m a victim; you just haven’t killed me yet!!!

__________________________

J. BIDDLE: #616776

Unfortunately, this sad tragedy will continue to happen until a major change come about and those officers that are responsible for the Unjustified Beatings and of Murder of others are immediately held Accountable for their gratuitous actions.

But for the peaceful protest, the violent riots, and then looting, the 4 officers would never be arrested and charged with the murder of George Floyd.

Personally, I really don’t think that things will change, unless serious changes are made within the laws. Specifically, Law Enforcement officials have one set of laws for themselves, and another set of laws for everyone else.

In the Rodney King’s violent beating situation, those officers were found ‘not guilty’. In 2014, Michael Brown was murdered by officers. Here we are in 2020, some 6 years later and same old tragedy continues nationwide.

Changes will only come about, only when changes in the one sided laws are made.

/////////////////////////

A. FRANCIS: #634098 / 307375-C

When I saw the video I was angry.

My next thought was why they always need an INVESTIGATION when they have that kind of footage.

RAJHN KALIM: #420404

As a 62 year old African American Muslim, when I saw the murder of George Floyd as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, back in February of this year, play out on Nationwide TV, it impacted my heart and spirit, and left me filled with anxiety, stress, and despair.

And had it not been for the video, in George Floyd’s case, he would have been labeled a common criminal who died while resisting arrest for passing a so-called $20 bill.

There was also no video in my case 19 years ago. If there was I would be free and home with my family. And not serving a life sentence for armed robbery and aggravated assault on a police officer.

____________________________

IBN EL AMIN PASHA #535695 / 428449-B

I was NOT surprised when I saw George Floyd get lynched. Simply based on history, it was supposed to happen. I would suggest that you examine and research the U.S. Constitution.

Ask yourself, those who participated and wrote the Constitution, were any of them Black or African American? Research the significance of the year 1619, the Reconstruction Era, the Jim Crow Era, Civil Rights and the Black Power Movements, and see how they relate to African Americans and Black people. Research Segregation, Gentrification, Redlining, Redistricting, Busing, Poor Housing, Racism, Poor Healthcare, Poor School System, Poor Politicians, Poverty, Drugs, Crime, Homelessness, Mass Incarceration, and ‘Police’ that don’t live in the Community that police the Community, and that are of opposite race.

Once you are able to thoroughly research, examine and be sincere about your resolve, ONLY then you will be able to understand why, what happened to Mr. George Floyd was SUPPOSED to happen.

____________________________

* * * * *

The above were just a few select CAPTIVE-VOICES from behind these walls. But, of course, there are other voices as well. Such as the ones who walk around wearing Blue with shinny Badges. So, in the interest of being “objective”, I reached out to a few officers for comments as well. That went as follows:

OFFICER “C” – ANONYMOUS (White Male)

I stay out of politics man … Yeah, it wasn’t good. Did you know they burnt down Downtown Trenton? I hope he [Officer Chauvin] gets the most time they can possibly give him. If I was there I would have stopped him. I probably would’ve punched him or tackled him off that guy.

Yeah, outside some people curse me out when they see me in uniform. But, I don’t give a S**t. I say F**k you to them.

I call it politics because, you know, what happened to the whole thing about the F***ing virus. They all forgot about that on CNN, Fox and what’s that other channel, and this thing is all over the place now and people are burning and looting. Like I said, I think it’s all politics man and I stay away form that.

What I think about Racism? Man, it’s like someone getting drunk. Whoever gets drunk we punish that person but, I don’t know, I think they are just using it as a political thing. I don’t feel that way towards people. You know how I am, you treat me good and respect me and I will treat you with respect as well.

Like I said, I feel bad about what happened to that guy and I wouldn’t let it happen.

___________________________

OFFICER “L” – ANONYMOUS (Black Male)

I think it was crazy. I wear this uniform but under it I am a Black man. You understand. I went to the protest yesterday with my kids. I am not for any of that stuff.

No, I didn’t feel… No one [outside] is saying anything [bad] to me. As I said, I’m a Black man.

What? No, I don’t talk to a lot of my [fellow White] officers about this, because … I know what they are about and what they put-out on social media and I see it. I don’t talk to them about it because then I will hate them.

Yeah, I separate it. Because I work here and I just don’t talk to them about it.

___________________________

OFFICER “X” – ANONYMOUS (Black Female)

My heart hurt. I don’t talk about it to anyone other than my own people…. I don’t trust anyone and I would not stand for it.

How I feel as a Black cop? … I got kids. But, I ain’t allowing them to do anything like that when I’m around. Like I said, I got kids.

Subsequently, I also had a chance to speak to my family and friends about Racism over the phone. I started this piece by stating that I was stunned, to tell you the truth, I must admit that I am more stupefied at the end.

Talking to non-Black people, including some close friends, I am dejected in admitting that we have a lot more to learn. Not just about the issues of Systemic Racism, but also about our own baser instincts.

Also where we are protesting on the streets for equality everywhere, we need to be honest with ourselves. Not just in America, but all over the world. I know it is politically savvy to criticize select countries on some make believe axis. But, if we are after the truth then we must address all of our evils, not just the selected few.

Yes, we should criticize the heavy handedness of Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China; we can surely speak about the marginalization and suppression of minorities in Burma, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Middle-East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. But, then we must also address the brutal and torturous campaign of Indian Forces against Kashmir, and the indigenous Nexalites; Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and Russia’s operation in Dagestan, and Chechnya. We must also address the Australians about the Aboriginal Saga, the Netherlands and Greek authorities’ mistreatment of migrants etc.

Otherwise, we are just going to be lying to ourselves.

I also feel sorry for being unable to amplify every voice. You see, I have many more loose papers fluttering about, with each screaming its own truth. Yet, I am unable to fit all of those CAPTIVE-VOICES in here.

Lastly, I want to share something that I learnt about our Black brothers and sisters. They are an extremely forgiving folk! A people whom are getting killed on every street corner it seems, because someone feels scared, or gets offended, by the mere color of their skin. In truth, they are the ones who should be scared of everyone, since they are the ones whom are being blatantly hunted.

I am perplexed with this dilemma.

But, even with that much evil, I am not surprised by their collective grace in return and their reliance on love over violence. Because, the people of, and from, Africa are some of the ancient inhabitants in this world; they are, perhaps, the sages among humanity.

Our Black brothers and sisters have preached a gospel of love. In face of tyranny, injustice, inequality, and racism, they have consistently spoken a language of peace, harmony, and love! Like Mathematics, love is also a universal language. I think it’s high-time that we all reciprocate.

So, to all my Black brothers and sisters, Assalaamu Alaikum, Peace be upon you!

Black lives matter, yes, Black lives do matter!!!

_____________________________

Every time I was disciplined by life, it showed me the weakness

of my intellect

And every time I increased in knowledge, it increased me

in knowledge of my ignorance!

(A quote from Islamic Tradition)

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Police State

June 29, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

United States of America has been in denial for a very long time. Regardless of its feigned ASCRIPTION to the ‘Land of the Free’, it is in reality a very, very racist and segregated society that uses its ‘heavy stick’ on its minorities to keep them in line. A ‘line’ that signifies the difference between Whites and the Privileged against the rest of the ‘Other’ Americans.

However, the bloated, and infected, underbelly of this Nation finally burst open and the stinking puss of Racism, Bigotry, and Police Brutality oozed out before the entire world to see and smell. And with the country literally burning, I say the act is up.

If you want more proof, look into the Judicial System and resultant overwhelming incarceration of blacks and other minorities as well. I’m sure that aspect of systematic Institutional Racism and Police Brutality will be more than enlightening.

The MURDER of George Floyd by a White police officer, Derek Chauvin, with the aid of his three cohorts, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was committed in broad daylight in front of dozens of people. The indifference by the 3 fellow officers was a real and practical example of the ‘Blue Wall’ for everyone to witness. Yet, even now, politicians, law enforcement officials, and public figures are bending over backwards in NOT calling it for what it was, a Voluntary, Knowing, and Purposeful act of MURDER.

The problem lies within the ethos of this country’s infatuation with ‘Heroism’. United States thinks of itself as the savior and the sole force of good in this world. It believes that it can do no wrong. And whenever a wrong is committed then it must have been for the greater cause.

This National narcissism is reflected in the apparatus of our country’s military and law enforcement as well. But, of course, whenever that ‘hypocrisy’ is revealed, say in the brutalization of prisoners in Abu Gharaib Prison in Iraq,; Rape and torture of Afia Siddiqui in a black-site in Afghanistan; murders of innocent civilians in multiple war zones, or State side torture of Rodney King, Ahmadou Dialo, Abner Louima, and killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Dontre Hamilton, Tamir Rice, and now George Floyd to name a few; the ‘ rogue’ element or a ‘bad apple’ theory is forwarded.

The truth is, and has been, and shall remain, that everyone in the world sees this sanctimonious ‘bull-crap’ for what it is, a never ending Anthology of Racism.

The ‘cop-out’ or feeble excuse of a few ‘bad apples’ is a disingenuous face-saving farce that is shoved down the proverbial throats of everyday Americans due to their self-imposed conundrum and hypocrisy of worshipping anything that is law enforcement. For example, Robert O’Brien, the National Security Advisor to President Trump, declared on National Media that it was a few ‘bad apples’ in Minnesota, and outright denied any “Systematic Racism”, and went as far to declare that “99.9%” are good police officers and “my heroes”.

An obvious inquiry would be to ask the basis of the cited statistic of 99.9%. But that would remain an enigma, because even in the face of the obvious staggering evidence, the majority of American society is indifferent to Police Brutality and behavior.

The use of disproportionate and overwhelming force is in the Zeitgeist of our country’s stratagem at large. Being locked up in an American maximum security prison, I know about police brutality quite personally. Unlike outside, there is never ever a recording. No witnesses, no watchers recording on phones or telling an officer to “get off” someone’s neck. But, ask any prisoner in this country,and they will tell you horrible details of their own experiences of abuse.

The most hurtful thing is that this is done in the name of you – The Public. And the public’s indifference makes it worse. Because without ever doing any investigation or proper oversight, Police Brutality is neglected and the police Personnel are AUTOMATICALLY labeled as Heroes.

Police Brutality is systematic. It has bee enhanced in recent years due to a few reasons. The most important being the militarization of law enforcement. This was done in two ways. First, police and law enforcement agencies has become a landing zone for ex military personnel. From armed forces to local law enforcement, it is basically an extended retirement plan and fringe benefits formula for former soldiers. Second, with unending wars and profiteering mega companies churning out massive amounts of military gear & equipment, a problem of excessive equipment developed. The military industrial complex and their political contracts could not be stopped, so the residual equipment was passed down to local law enforcement. That thick headedness resulted in, police & corrections officers looking the part of Navy Seals and other Special Forces commandos and, armored vehicles and war zone equipment on the American Street.

Moreover, the ex soldiers also brought the battle field tactics to the American law enforcement arena and perhaps that is more evident behind the thick walls of our prisons. I, and multitude of the over 2.5 million behind bars can validate that fact. Remember the old photos of black men during Civil Rights Movements being held by White police officers and being mauled by German Sheppard dogs. – Those photos are alive behind these prison walls. The use if dogs is a symbol of the old Nazi Era, something that needs to be paid attention to.

Additionally, the militarization has ushered in the so called “wanna be” ‘ Warriors’ mentality to the police officers. Specialized “Warrior Trainings” are being paid for by the police unions and are having a devastating effect. The heavy handedness that is now very visible on streets of this country are direct result of those specialized trainings and ‘brainwashing’ of law enforcement personnel who seem to view the adversaries, American Civilians, as enemy combatants.
Where the words and philosophy of our Police Departments were “to Protect, and Serve”, it is now morphed into Police becoming the “Weapons of the State”.

The brutal tactics don’t end on the streets. The same mentality is responsible for our Mass Incarceration issues, where police officers habitually lie on the stand, plant evidence, and do everything in their power to get innocent minorities convicted. Think about it, if the police officers have no qualms in choking & shooting someone in broad daylight, what reservations would they have in lying before a jury. Those convictions, like mine, result in life sentences, and a very, very, slow death.

To make changes to this official brutality, systematic root causes must be addressed. For example, George Floyd’s Murderer had 10 EXCESSIVE FORCE related charges. Why was he still on the job? That is the same case in prison, where guards routinely abuse their powers and are ‘written-up’ on numerous occasions by the prisoners yet no one pays attention. The oversight mechanism should look deeply in the documented abuse by the police officers and they should be removed and where appropriate, charged with crimes.

Also, the Judicial System needs a look as well. Why is there a preference for Prosecutors to get promoted to the bench? The working partnership between the judges, prosecutors, and police is a fundamental hindrance to equality of justice. It is a monumental task for an average person to fight such powerful adversaries. It is just not fair!

To alleviate that, more Defense Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Offices and organizations like the ACLU, SPDF, and EJI, should be appointed to the bench and Appellate Courts.

If you really want to understand the outrage behind police brutality, you might want to start by reading Jane Coaston, senior reporter at VOX.COM, and to Van Jones at CNN. That might be a good start towards understanding the actual pain of the protesters.

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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

I’ve walked a thousand nights
I’ve walked a thousand steps
On a thousand nights
I’ve walked, till I could walk no more
Walking a thousand miles
I’ve reached a place, a seeming respite
Finding none, instead filled with spite
A place of evil, so full of strife
Filled with lifers, yet so devoid of life
I hate it here that is for sure
To find relief, I shall walk some more
I shall walk, till I can walk no more
On yet, another thousand nights
I shall walk yet, another thousand steps
Walking yet, another thousand nights

All content on this website is protected and copyright of MaQbool Inc

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

It is the holiday season. I am constantly reminded of it everyday while watching TV in my cell in the New Jersey State Prison. Every television advertisement is filled with the Christmas and holiday themes. Although after a while it all kind of becomes redundant.

In here, there are also somewhat labored attempts by the Administration to celebrate Christmas in the prison. The most significant being the holiday meal, consisting of chicken with powdered gravy, fake mashed potatoes, and a prison made cake with icing. As is with food quality, the ambiance of the prison doesn’t really go with the holiday spirit to say the least.

Going back to the Christmas TV ads, there are two in particular that always catch my attention. Both of those happen to contain my favorite pet animal, dogs. I am sure that you know the two ads as well; one is for the ASPCA animal rescue, and the other one is collaboration with ASPCA and Subaru which has this couple that shows up at an animal shelter with treats and pet toys. They decorate the dark cages with Christmas lights and play with the dogs and cats on Christmas Eve.

Both advertisements are excellently done and have heart tugging music, specially the ASPCA ad with the “silent night” chorus with accompanying, zoomed in, closeup shots of shivering dogs and cats in dilapidated conditions. With a donation of $19 a month, you could save many animals it is stated. They will even send you a courtesy package for your donation that includes a prize T-shirt that aptly reads: “Animal Champion”.

In addition to the above, there are these other long ‘infomercials’ about how many animals need homes and rescuing. And how many innocent animals are abused and mistreated, ones suffering behind closed doors, small spaces, and without a voice of their own. You know those TV slots as well… right?

Funny thing is that I often end up daydreaming when I watch those ads and infomercials. I guess we see life through our own prism. So, as an incarcerated captive, my lens is always focused on the ones around me. Such as, other human beings who are often mistreated, wrongfully accused and convicted, abused, suffering behind closed doors, small spaces, and without a voice of their own. You guys know about those as well… right?

There are lot of studies done about animals in captivity. I am sure a concerned reader can Google those with a few keystrokes on their computers and phones. There are studies on affects of caging animals that are meant to roam vast swaths of land. There are also studies done on fish and sea creatures that are raised in captivity rather than their own natural environments.

In sum, you can find almost anything relating to the captivity of the wild animal species. Not only that, with the popularity of animal networks and shows you will also find that this subject of animal captivity, cruelty, and abuse, is something that is sort of a “hot-topic” all around the United States and perhaps the world.

In contrast, the subject of incarceration and captivity of the higher species, the homosapien–, well… that is totally another subject. Although, interestingly the superficial “prison shows”, and prison related “entertainment” has also gotten quite a following and popularity.

You see it seems that the world around us is more concerned with the abuse of animals rather than that of fellow human beings. In an innate sense, we as human beings try to look away from our own flaws, and for a lack of better term, garbage.

To humans, the flaws of other’s are highlighted more than one’s own. The vehement and seething anger that arouses from someone else’s bad actions is somehow more abhorrent than the ones we commit ourselves. The casting of stones while living in our own glass castles is the norm now.

Heck with what Jesus said, it is Christmas, we need to get “crunked up” with a Santa and Rudolph to boot. And we can turn that little deer too, point him at the cute animal cages – no need to be casting a bright light on the cages containing fathers, sons, and mothers of those we can’t see. Its freedom of choice you see, the ones in prisons, their loved ones don’t have to play “I’ll be home for Christmas”. There are other melodic avenues and vessels they can focus their attentions upon of course. It is Christmas!

Anyhow, as far as the studies about incarceration go, there has been a few recent one’s about the affects of long term isolation on prisoners kept in solitary confinement. The result was a change of policy in New Jersey Department of Corrections, “NJDOC”, where the decades old brutal practice of tossing prisoners in solitary confinement for years was changed. Now, the longest possible lock-up, “hole”, and Administrative Segregation, “Ad-Seg”, times are limited to a year. And the most controversial placements in the Maximum Custody Units, “MCU”, are limited to the most serious of offenses with thorough mandatory reviews. A lot still needs to be done but at least the quintessential ‘snail’ of the NJDOC has taken its first slimy slide. I say “jingle bells, jingle all the way!”

I do wonder that if the ‘snail’ pace is what was actually intended. Because, often is the case as such with the ones in the captivity business. To appease the limited detracting voices a small slide of a snail’s pace is achieved, and then the ones involved go on a purported victory lap for years to come, touting their humanity and modernizing efforts, slapping each other’s backs for a job well done. Yet, the saga of the actual Draconian long term incarceration remains.

I wonder… no I wish, if someone could conduct a real life study on the affects of actual long term incarceration on human beings, perhaps a study on affects upon those whom are locked up for life, and upon their loved ones as well. – Because, in reality they are imprisoned as well.

I wonder… what studies show of affects on a child growing up without a parent? What would studies show of the resulting and lasting affects when someone’s loved one is thrown behind bars for life? And what would studies show of the psychological, social, and financial, affects that are visible on those who have had a run-in with the law and all its prejudice.

I also wonder… what will the studies say when they find a peculiar behavior, of those locked up for a long time in NJSP, where they actually throw fecal material on others. Would they compare it to the animal studies done on primates that were caged for a similar long period of time? Or, will it be too bold, too upfront, too controversial, for their tastes in the glass castles?

I wonder.

I ask those who have given me the honor of their time, to read this plea, if animals are meant to roam free, what is to be said about humans? To set the injustices of the American Criminal Justice aside, if the real reason to punish was a crime then why does the punishment seem so arbitrary, so class and race driven? And for that matter so inhumane?

I wonder.

You can conduct any study and compare the American Justice System with that of other so-called civilized world, and can come to your own conclusions. I, like many others behind these walls, will wait for the day when someone comes to decorate the cages we live in, and cast a light to shed focus on our captive plights, and we will wait for the day when they are actually selling T-shirts with the logo: “HUMAN CHAMPION”.

Happy holidays to all.

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Untitled

December 26, 2019 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: An Unknown Poet | Edited By: Tariq MaQbool & Hamza Franklin
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

Today was the absolute worst day ever

And don’t try to convince me that

There’s something good in everyday

Because when you take a closer look

This world is a pretty evil place

Even if

Some goodness does shine through once in a while

Satisfaction and happiness don’t last

And it’s not true that

It’s all in the mind and heart

Because

True happiness can be obtained

Only if one’s surroundings are good

It’s not true that good good exists

I’m sure that you can agree that

The reality

Creates

My attitude

It’s all beyond my control

And you will never in a million years hear me say that

Today was a good day

**NOW READ FROM BOTTOM TO TOP**

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Whisper

December 26, 2019 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

A whisper speaks to me

Low but clear

Tells me, and i listen

Low, but clear

Its crackling, its chirping

A non stop cacophony 

Low but clear

Revealing, but reserved

Low but clear

Tells me, and i listen

Words of wisdom!

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Forever A Foreigner

December 24, 2019 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

“So how do they do it in your country?” As a Pakistani-American this inquiry or this sort of skepticism is nothing new. What is different however is the one who is asking. Let me explain.

I was brought to the United States by my parents when I was young. I did not desire to come, and for that matter I was quite adamantly against my family’s immigration to the United States. Like all other kids, I did not want to leave my childhood friends, family home, and neighborhood, but, initially it wasn’t my choice to make.

Yet, here I was in the United States of America and for the best part of my school years things went relatively smooth. I actually never experienced any abuse relating to me being an immigrant. Of course, there were obvious reasons for it.

First, my mother’s Persian heritage and my father belonging to the northern Salt Range Mountains of Pakistan, I could pass for a lot of nationalities and ethnicities. And unlike many immigrant kids, coming from Pakistan where I was educated in the prestigious private military school systems, I spoke English fluently.

Moreover, my extended family had been living in New York City for years and, since early childhood, I visited almost every other summer during regular school vacations. So, in a way, New York, and Queens were a second home for me.

When visiting, I would literally switch accents at the airports. My father was with Pakistan International Airlines, PIA, and we traveled a lot. From an early age, experiencing different cultures and people gave me a unique ear for subtlety in pronunciation. So, suffice it to say, when I opened my mouth I didn’t sound alien.

As I started college my family was also naturalized and we became American citizens. During my time in college, life and work was largely in Manhattan. There too, in the cradle of the world’s spice mix, I didn’t experience any sort of real bias.

I am being very careful and specific about it since there is a fine line between the racial biases as opposed to prejudices due to someone being an immigrant. The difference being, the racial type is a straight forward superiority complex, the “I am better than you” stupidity. This is something we see all around the world. The immigrant bias, to me is more hurtful, as it pronounces that I don’t belong here.

You see, I loved Pakistan when I was young. It was my homeland, where I was born. And I still love Pakistan. But, over time, being brought here – as it is natural – I developed a love for this land as well. The reality is that I love United States too.

My adopted home and its culture has mixed and mingled with my Pakistani heritage. The resulting collage is a beautiful one. Like many other young immigrants – regardless of my parents’ original decision – as an adult I made my own choice and I chose America.

I can only surmise by saying that loving both, Pakistan and America is comparable to having a mother and a loving wife. To make the correlation even serious, let’s say you have had children with your loving wife. So the question is, push come to shove, who do you choose?

United States’ ethos is that of ‘freedom’, which is shared by Pakistanis and Muslims in general. You might be surprised, in light of the overly sensationalized evil actions of the few, reality is that freedom of religion, and tolerance, Capitalism, and free-trade are not unique concepts to the United States or the West. Those ideals are shared by the East and Islam as well. And by that I mean the true Islam. Not the so-called, and fake media version.

The American “acceptance” of different ideas, creeds, and people, makes this land special in modern times. Yet, even this “acceptance” is not unique to America, the annals of the Muslim rule of Spain, the “Golden Era of Islam”, and Muslim rule of the Mughal Empire in the subcontinent, will astonish even the smuggest of the detractors.

The promise of America is a shared experience. And the ones like me have drunk that elixir, and have bought in, and have believed in that “pursuit of happiness”. And I chose this land. As Fiona Hill recently stated so eloquently during the “impeachment hearings”, my patriotism too is by choice, and not by on account of accidental birth.

Thus, when a question is raised and I am told that I do not belong here, it hurts beyond explanation.

Due to unfortunate circumstances and my own mistakes, I ended up in prison, currently serving a greater than life sentence. Prison is not a delicate place by any stretch of imagination. As time elapsed, as with all things, prison too began to change. There was a marked shift in the culture of the institution as well.

The outside influences and politics have a way within a captive society. Like a cut off pond, separated from the outside world, the politics and social influences are filtered into a penitentiary. The resulting evolution is something very different than what happens in the free world.

Within the confines of prison, racism and biases too are of a different breed. Hearing racial epithets from the prison guards are too many for me to mention without getting into a long lament. Suffice it to say that I have heard and experienced every type of bigotry and racial slur. From the view point of my captors, I guess, finally seeing someone who seemed to represent the physical traits and ancestral links to the “enemy” was enough to provide a Carte Blanche for abuse.

But the thing that hurts most is when a fellow prisoner, an African American, a Muslim brother says, ” So how do they do it in your country?” It makes me feel beyond rejected.

Because, the Muslim African American population in the prison system was the one that had initially welcomed and embraced me upon my arrival, and even in this place of sadness and isolation, I actually felt accepted and had a sense of belonging to a community.

Therefore, now, it hurts beyond words when people of color, other minorities, and even Muslim brothers question me belonging to this country and my existence as an American.

All those years ago when I had pleaded with my parents for not bringing me to America, there was a reason for it. You see, I used to love reading and I remembered this particular story that instilled a fear of being an outcast. I guess, in a way, to this day it continues to haunt me.

It was a story about a raven that wanted to be a peacock. He left his other raven friends and preferred the company of peacocks due to their beautiful feathers and regal personalities. He started to test his limits and, slowly, started hangout where the peacocks huddled and looked for early worms. The peacocks hardly noticed the dark little raven and paid him no mind, and the raven felt brave and accepted. He went back the next day and grabbed a few fallen peacock feathers and decorated himself properly.

Then he flew to his old abode and swaggered around other ravens with all the arrogance he could muster. The ravens just shook their heads at him and casted disdainful looks. Full of pride, the little raven flew with a running start to mimic the peacocks and flew away with all his pride.

Landing back at the peacocks’ area, filled with joy, he started to prance around. Watching his buffoonery, and fake feathers, the peacocks turned on the dark little raven. Barely saving his life from the beaks and talons of the assaulting peacocks, the raven flew away.

Dejected, and rejected as a peacock, he flew back to his old friends. As he landed among the ravens, their hate and disdain for this turncoat, this pretender to be someone else, was palpable, they turned on him as well.

Dejected, and rejected as a raven, he flew away with his feathers torn and honor besmirched. He found a lonely branch of a dead tree that sat as a marker between the territories of the ravens and the peacocks. He wondered, looking at the peacocks and ravens in the distant, and then finally realized that he was now forever a foreigner!

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Retributivist

September 10, 2019 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

You ever seen those people in the movies, surrounding someone who is getting executed, lynched or having their heads chopped?
“Off with his head!” they shout in unison.

That crowd is always there shouting, coaxing for the execution to happen. Throwing filth at the condemned, and when the deed is done they simply disperse.

I have often wondered why? What is it that makes people so? Is it as simple as a release? Perhaps from the difficulties and injustices of their own lives that makes them – us – so callous, so cold, and so detached from another human being’s plight. Perhaps in that person’s suffering they feel some sort of vindication, a sense of justice for their own misery. Perhaps, even a mirage of finally getting even. An ecstasy for a retributivist!
There is a baser element to retribution, an innate desire to offset the harm, an instinctive desire to punish and to do so severely. The level of harm, the original wrong, in itself, whether it was perceived, or actually suffered, that is beside the point. To a retributive mindset, the end always justify the means.


“Criminal Justice Reform” is ‘in’, so to speak. The airways have run-amuck with the political charade and imprudence of ‘Presidential’ proportions. The “Reformers” are out in force. Almost every Cable Network has something to say about the ‘chattels’ behind bars. I am one of those who are locked up, so to see important people talk about us makes me feel rather – nauseatingly- consumed.


Even the President has dabbled in the foray of popular hysteria of Criminal Justice Reform. And to view him, surrounded by the stalwarts of the modern Republican Party, signing in to law the “First Step Act” made me feel so happy that I almost gagged. I was also lost on the choice of the name, ‘First Step’ to what?


I am serving a double life sentence, for two homicides, totalling 150 years, with a built in “No Early Release” parole intelligibility of 85 percent. Simply put, I must serve 127 1/2 years before I can qualify for parole.
Do not worry folks, I will not be boring you with my “feigned” pleas of being innocent and getting a trial that would make the “Emmett Till” jury proud. I am simply trying to make a point. So indulge me in as much.


I am skeptic as it is obvious, but I am one with some merit I submit. I actually live the very life those ‘experts’ in the media talk about. Because, watching the circus around the issue of incarceration on TV, and reading about it, makes me perturbed beyond reason since the pundits and politicians alike are trying to solve a conundrum which doesn’t really exist. The efforts in trying to solve the “Mass Incarceration” challenges are in vain since the problem isn’t correctly identified. The skeptic in me is screaming that it is done on purpose so that while the concerned public is appeased, nothing is actually done towards a real solution.


The effort to reform the Criminal Justice System and the Mass Incarceration is being talked about in terms of a drug epidemic gone wild. And even wilder have been those who had initially sought to incarcerate their way out to fix this invented issue.


As I said, the problem isn’t correctly identified. You see the flawed supposition that prisons are filled to capacity due to folks being charged for nonviolent drug crimes is as asinine a notion as President Obama being born in Africa. But still, the “believers” are also out in force.


Even I, a prisoner, with extremely limited capabilities to research can tell you this much that the hoax of nonviolent drug convictions burdening our prisons is baseless. Yet, according to a 2016 poll conducted by Vox.com, a majority of the liberals and the conservatives believe that half of the prisoners in these United States are locked up for nonviolent drug related crimes.


Moreover, there is even more consensus among the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, they both vehemently oppose any sentence reduction for people convicted of violent crimes – Throw away the ‘keys’ and they are all happy. An observable inquiry would be as to how many ‘keys’ are they planning on throwing? Who says the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ can’t agree on anything. All you have to do is to appeal to their baser instincts. Voil!


The facts are often ignored in these types of debates, but for ‘kicks’, here are some realities: Over 50% of those locked up in the state prison systems are there for violent crimes. The drug convictions only make up for about 15% of state prison systems. And although, it is true that about 50% of federal prison population does consist of drug related offenses, the glaring reality is that the entire federal prison population is only 10% of all prisoners in the United States.


In layman’s terms, our state prison systems make up the bulk of the country’s prison population and majority of that populace is serving time for violent crimes. That is why the overly touted prison reforms such as the so-called First Step Act will have a minuscule effect on any reforms. Since the reformers are unwilling to focus on the actual issues – of violent crimes sentence reform – there will be no solution to the ‘Mass Incarceration’ plague.


For a country, and more specifically the political elite, that openly advertises its Christian Faith, the lack of forgiveness, mercy and second chances are beyond hypocrisy. Their messages of ‘Transformation’ and ‘ Redemption’ do not comport with their lack of belief in the concept that people can change. Where the rest of the world is lectured on a ‘civilized’, ‘cultured’ and ‘humane’ approach, the one in this country is reflective of a darker age.

All around the world there are stories of people changing for the better, accounts of salvation, recovery and emancipation. If a neo-nazi can change, an anti-semite can see the world differently, and if a terrorist can be rehabilitated to actually save lives and be a messenger of peace, why can’t those whom are condemned in American prisons?


One look behind our prison walls and the notion of “one nation under God” and “liberty and justice for all” sound more like hollow campaign promises. And the proclaimed ‘best’ Justice System in the world is akin to a Kafka episode if compared to the continuous stories of the wrongly convicted and executed!


A Buddhist monk, “Thick Nhat Hanh”, once said: “Here is the question, what is the right thing to do after the wrong has happened”. Maybe if the “Reformers” started with that premise we might see some actual reform. But, that is an inquiry of an enlightened mind and consciousness. To a retributivist, there is no difference between Retribution and Rehabilitation.

To me, all of this talk about reforms, and cyclical political environment, somehow feels like the ‘Groundhog Day’. After a little while it just becomes one of the talking points which a politician must check off before he or she ends their speech.


All the while the surrounding crowd hails and venerates. A ‘promise’ is made and a ‘dream’ is sold to a symphony of applause. And then — they all disperse.


On each Groundhog Day, I feel like the one stranded at sea, floating to a silent quietus. And then I see it, I see that ‘promise’ that was made, that ‘dream’ that was sold, I’ve bought it. Hope. And I swim towards it, like an island in the middle of the sea. And then as I get closer it seems, as if on cue, like all mirages — they all disperse.

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Being Human

July 30, 2019 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

A man died in New Jersey State Prison a few months ago. Rumors were swirling about as soon the ominous “Code 66” was announced on the prison PA system.

Walking towards the old building of the West Compound, I clutched a stack of institutional memos in my right hand to deliver to the area’s supervisor’s desk. With my left hand I lazily tried to tuck in my brown shirt. The institutional rules require us prisoners to have our shirts tucked in at all times. A relatively new rule, of course.

So, as I approached the door that connects to the center rotunda of the West Compound, the officer on the other side motioned me to stop. I complied, and was told to clear the hallway. “You want me to return?” I asked. He shook his head hastily and told me to step aside as “they” were coming.

As a prisoner, the word “they” could mean a plethora of things. At times it means the Administrative Personnel are coming through. At other times it means that the Special Investigation Division (SID) folks are about to pass. And sometimes, a special escort is taking place where someone from the Closed Custody units is being taken to one place or another.

“What do you want me to do, stand to the side?” I asked again with a slight gesture of my shoulders as I held tight to the memos.

“Step into that room.” The office motioned me towards the adjacent Court-line room, where the institutional infractions are reviewed by the so-called review panel. I instinctively hesitated before entering the room, which serves as a mini-courtroom inside prison walls.  When a prisoner is charged with a violation of institutional regulations, his case is heard in this room.

At such hearings, the person charged with an infraction is usually provided with a prison paralegal who acts as his attorney. The statistical probability of an actual acquittal in front of the prison’s kangaroo court is beyond laughable.  And I think every prisoner in here shares some sort of apprehension in entering that door for obvious reasons.

I sighed, and walked towards the swinging iron-bar door that connects to an interior wooden door. I paused for a brief moment, and then entered the room with a prayer. As I turned to see the coming “they,” it dawned on me that it was probably that dead man.

I was right.

The door leading from West Compound Center Rotunda opened and a rather serious and mean looking SID officer stepped out. They have a peculiar preppy way of dressing with the customary golden SID badge hung on their belts. It’s worn with pride, a shiny badge to let everyone inside know that “they” are indeed special.  

He barely glanced in my direction. Special people like him tend to look at prisoners like me as though we are little more than the white smudge of spittle that accumulates on the side of the mouth. Two other SID personnel followed him. And then an outside EMT entered, pulling on a gurney on which lay the black bag containing the dead man’s body. The bag was large and from the contour of the corpse I could tell that the dead man was tall.

My heart sank. There were rumors spreading that the dead man was one of friends — one of my Albanian boys from Bronx.  But I knew it couldn’t have been him. He was locked up in solitary confinement due to a recent violation and was in another part of the prison. I shook my head to chase the disturbing thought out. But the question still remained: who was the dead man?

The procession was followed by two sergeants and a young woman, who I assumed was from the prison administrator’s office. She was slender and tall with dark hair tied in a tight pony tail, very easy on the eyes. She and the two sergeants walked behind the gurney smiling and cheerfully talking as if the gurney contained balloons. Then one of the sergeants whispered something into the woman’s ear and they both laughed aloud.

I froze.

A memory suddenly flashed before my eyes. I was perhaps ten years old, walking to the local bazaar with my father in the country of my birth, Pakistan. We lived in Lahore then and he was holding my hand as we walked. He was taking me to get a treat, something which I really wanted. For the life of me I can’t remember what it was, but I remember that I wanted it bad. As we walked past a street vendor selling mangoes, we encountered a small group of men. They looked like construction workers, known as mazdoors, from out of town.

Similar to the Mexican migrant workers who gather early in the morning here in America around local towns for work, the mazdoors would travel from the rural parts of Pakistan to seek out manual labor, such as construction and other back breaking hard work in the big cities.

I noticed that the mazdoors were gathered around a makeshift gurney containing a dead body, covered with a dark blanket. That dead man was also tall, and the blanket only covered a little past his knees. I could see his long legs and large tan feet. He had muscular calves and big ankles. He must have been a tall man indeed.

“What is going on?” my father asked with concern in his voice.

“He fell off the building, sahaab,” replied one of the mazdoors with tears in his eyes. “We don’t have enough money to transport his body back to the village and we only have enough to bury him. But, if we use that money, then we won’t be able to give anything to his widow. He has a young child as well.”

Without another word, my father reached in his pocket and handed the mazdoor some money. “Shroud and bathe him, properly,” my father said. “And bring his body to the mosque. Insha-Allah (God Willing), everything will be fine.”

The mazdoors thanked my father and graciously took the money and the body of their companion.

But instead of taking me to the market, my father turned towards the mosque. I complained and whined to no avail. I asked him why we had to go to the mosque since we already gave money to the dead man’s friends. In response, he told me about a tradition of our Prophet in which the community has a collective obligation to pray over the dead. That important obligation would be satisfied if even a few members of the community prayed over the burial. But if no one performed the rites, the whole community would be held accountable on the Day of Judgment.

After reaching the mosque my father spoke to the Imam and made arrangements for the dead man’s funeral and burial. The last prayer of the day was upon us and, after the prayer, people from our neighborhood donated a large amount of money for the dead man’s family in the village and prayed over his dead body. Following the prayer, in line with Islamic traditions in burying the dead as soon as possible, the entire crowd somberly accompanied the funeral towards the local graveyard.

Once again, my father yanked my hand and joined in with the crowd. I whined again, craving what I was craving, and asked him why we had to go all the way to the graveyard after doing so much for the dead man. “It wasn’t a favor son, but an obligation,” my father replied.

“So, okay, we did the obligation, so why can’t we go to the bazaar. Why do we now have to follow the funeral?” I remember complaining. He stopped and bent down to look me in the eyes after kissing my forehead kindly. “Son every living thing will taste death. He was someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s loved one, and a man is dead. We are following, for the sake of ‘being human.'”

Another bout of laughter jarred me back from my day dreaming, away from the streets of Pakistan and back into cold prison. As the gurney rolled down the hallway with its laughing entourage in tow, I couldn’t shake the difference in treatment of the dead. There was no mourning, no collective respect for the loss of a life. Here the dead man was simply scurried to his final abode: the ice box.

Once secured inside cold storage, the job of the Department of Corrections personnel would be over. The nameless dead man would remain in his cold confines for the foreseeable future until the rights to his body were worked out. If someone claimed his remains, then all was well. But, if not, well then after a lengthy stay in the ice box he would be unceremoniously hauled off to yet another box of an entirely different and opposite nature. It was one of fire and heat, where his remains would be cremated, his existence burned to ashes, scattered, dumped, wiped, forgotten. His memory lost forever.

Even the dead man’s living quarters in prison, such as his cell and property, would be reclaimed immediately after his body was removed. By the very next day his cell would be cleaned and a new dead-man-in-waiting would enter; a never ending nameless and enigmatic commodity.
You see, in this place where the warehousing of humans is commerce, where the perpetual trade is of dead men, there are no identities, no rites, no somber moments of silence. There is no remembrance, no dignity. Not even a modicum of humanity even at the moment of death.

As I said, the prison is a place of commerce, and business here is booming.

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